As he was preparing for We Walk This Road
, Robert Randolph and his producer T-Bone Burnett were working on an update of this song by early bluesman Blind Willie Johnson. At first, the results proved to be unsatisfactory. However, they eventually turned things around with the help of guitarist Ben Harper who played six string and sung on the track. Randolph recalled to Artist Direct
: "T-Bone had this vision for these songs where he thought everyone should come in and jam on them. We didn't know where they would go, but maybe something would happen. Maybe somebody will say something or play something that will take us somewhere and just use everything around us as inspiration. So, we'd get in there and start jamming, playing, singing, writing lyrics, but what we had at the time [for this song] just wasn't good enough for any of us. I just decided I was beat down and wanted to walk away from the song for awhile.
Four months later, I'm texting Ben Harper, 'Hey why don't you come down to the studio? We're just hanging out and making music.' So Ben comes down and asks to hear something. I played him 'If I Had My Way' and his eyes just lit up like a kid in a candy store. He ran into the vocal booth and just starting singing those lyrics; making them up right there. We thought, 'Wow! Now we've got something to write to. Let's do this thing.' It just turned into such a great event. You're not the only one that likes that one. It's everybody's favorite. That's why we decided to release that one first. That song really tells the story of the record. When you're talking about the first day I talked to T-Bone about how we could make this record special, this song has Jim Keltner [Bob Dylan] playing drums, my sister and cousins singing, Ben Harper singing and T-Bone playing guitar. It's just a story, you know?"