You Gotta Move (song)

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"You Got to Move"
Song by Mississippi Fred McDowell
from the album You Gotta Move
Released1965 (1965)
RecordedBerkeley, California, July 5, 1965
GenreHill country blues
Producer(s)Chris Strachwitz

"You Gotta Move" is a traditional African-American spiritual song. The lyrics carry the Christian message that regardless of one's situation in life, it is God who determines one's ultimate fate. Beginning around the 1940s, the song has been recorded by a variety of gospel musicians, usually as "You Got to Move" or "You've Got to Move".

Early gospel songs[edit]

The Two Gospel Keys recorded "You've Got to Move" in 1948.[1] They performed it as an uptempo gospel song. Similar renditions followed by Elder Charles D. Beck (1949),[2] Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1950),[3] the Original Five Blind Boys of Alabama (1953),[4] and the Hightower Brothers (1956).[5] The Reverend Gary Davis recorded the song in 1962.[6] It includes a more ominous verse:[7]

You may run, can't be caught
You may hide, can't be found
Brother when God gets ready, you got to move

Later renditions[edit]

In 1964, soul singer Sam Cooke recast the song with lyrics about a broken relationship for his 1963 album Night Beat.[8] In 1965, Mississippi bluesman Fred McDowell recorded it as a slow, slide guitar Hill country blues solo piece. The song generally follows a seven-bar or an eight-bar blues arrangement and has been compared to "Sitting on Top of the World".[9] McDowell uses lyrics closer to Davis' 1962 rendition,[9] but adds a haunting slide guitar line that doubles the vocal.[10] A verse from the song is inscribed on his headstone:[11]

You may be high, you may be low
You may be rich child, you may be poor
But when the Lord gets ready, you got to move

The Rolling Stones version[edit]

"You Gotta Move"
Song by the Rolling Stones
from the album Sticky Fingers
ReleasedApril 23, 1971 (1971-04-23)
GenreBlues rock
LabelRolling Stones
Producer(s)Jimmy Miller

McDowell's rendition inspired many subsequent recordings, including a popular electric-combo version by the Rolling Stones. The Stones regularly performed "You Gotta Move" during their 1969 US tour. They recorded a version at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama in December 1969, with later recording in England in 1970. It was later included on their 1971 album Sticky Fingers, which credited McDowell as the songwriter.

Mick Jagger sings the song in a Southern black dialect with Mick Taylor's electric slide guitar accompaniment that follows McDowell's.[10] Taylor commented in 2011: "'You Gotta Move' was this great Mississippi Fred McDowell song that we used to play all the time in the studio. I used a slide on that – on an old 1954 Fender Telecaster – and that was the beginning of that slide thing I tried to develop with the Stones."[This quote needs a citation] Two different concert versions are included as bonus tracks on the group's Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! (1970) and another on Love You Live (1977). The latter features Billy Preston, who plays on Sam Cooke's version.[12]


  1. ^ Billboard (January 10, 1948). "Advance Record releases". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. 60 (2): 29. ISSN 0006-2510.
  2. ^ Billboard (May 14, 1949). "Advance Record Releases". Billboard. 61 (20): 127. ISSN 0006-2510.
  3. ^ Coda (1966). "Sister Rosetta Tharpe". Coda. Vol. 7 no. 5–12. John Norris. p. 9. ISSN 0010-017X.
  4. ^ Nations, Opal. "Oh Lord, Stand by Me". AllMusic. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  5. ^ Blues Unlimited (1982). "The Hightower Brothers". Blues Unlimited. Vol. 142–146. p. 37.
  6. ^ Billboard (October 20, 1962). "Singles Reviews". Billboard. Vol. 74 no. 42. Nielsen Business Media. p. 44. ISSN 0006-2510.
  7. ^ Phillips, Bill (1974). "Piedmont Country Blues". America's Best Music. The Institute for Southern Studies. p. 59.
  8. ^ In 1934, Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy recorded the two-part "You Got to Move (You Ain't Got to Move)" which deals with a broken relationship.
  9. ^ a b Sing Out (1969). "You Got to Move". Sing Out!. p. 12. ISSN 0037-5624.
  10. ^ a b Koda, Cub. "Mississippi Fred McDowell – Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved March 1, 2015.
  11. ^ Cheseborough, Steve (2004). Blues Traveling: The Holy Sites of Delta Blues. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. p. 216. ISBN 978-1578066506.
  12. ^ Sam Cooke's Night Beat album also contains an updated "Little Red Rooster" along with "You Got to Move", both songs which the Rolling Stones later recorded closer to the original/blues versions.