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This is a reworked version Robert Johnson's Blues classic. Prolific in the 1930s, Johnson was one of Keith Richard's inspirations.
The Stones recorded this with more of a Country feel than the original Blues version, which was more dreary and depressing.
Keith Richards: "For a time we thought the songs that were on that first album were the only recordings Robert Johnson had made, and then suddenly around '67 or '68 up comes this second bootleg collection that included Love in Vain. Love in Vain was such a beautiful song. Mick and I both loved it, and at the time I was working and playing around with Gram Parsons, and I started searching around for a different way to present it, because if we were going to record it there was no point in trying to copy the Robert Johnson style or ways and styles. We took it a little bit more country, a little bit more formalized, and Mick felt comfortable with that."
Mick Jagger: "We changed the arrangement quite a lot from Robert Johnson's. We put in extra chords that aren't there on the Robert Johnson version. Made it more country. And that's another strange song, because it's very poignant. Robert Johnson was a wonderful lyric writer, and his songs are quite often about love, but they're desolate." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 2)
With Brian Jones unavailable due to drug problems, Ry Cooder was brought in to play mandolin.
The Stones' record label at the time, ABKCO Music, lost the rights to this in 2000 when a court ruled that this, along with "Stop Breakin' Down," were the property of Robert Johnson's estate. The Stones thought the copyright on the song had expired.
Eric Clapton recorded this for his 2004 album Me and Mr. Johnson. Clapton is a big fan of Robert Johnson. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Mike Watt - "History Lesson, Pt. 2"
Mike Watt of the Minutemen tells the story of the song that became an Indie Rock touchstone. It's also the story of what Mike calls "The Movement."
Joshua Scott Jones explains why he's always asking forgiveness from his musical partner, who's also his girlfriend.
Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum
Dave explains how the video appropriated the meaning of "Runaway Train," and what he thought of getting parodied by Weird Al.