Love In Vain

Album: Let It Bleed (1969)
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Songfacts®:

  • This is a reworked version Robert Johnson's blues classic. Prolific in the 1930s, Johnson was one of Keith Richards' 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." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    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.
  • The Stones performed this song at the 2007 Isle of Wight festival with Paolo Nutini, who was just 20 years old at the time and enjoying breakthrough success from his debut album These Streets. The band rehearsed it with Nutini in a Travelodge hotel room before the show, leaving quite an impression on the young Scottish singer.

Comments: 14

  • Baghead Kelly from AustraliaThe first thing to note is the Stones turned it from a 4/4 beat to a 6/8 waltz, the same treatment that The Animals rendered "The House Of The Rising Sun" a few years prior. The second thing to note is Robert Johnson (a genius in his own right) lifted the tune from Leroy Carr's "In the Evening, When the Sun Goes Down" which predates "Love In Vain".
  • Jeff from MinneapolisMy cd for Stripped and Let it Bleed does not give Johnson a songwriting credit, seems odd.
  • Barry from New York, NcIt's a pretty sad song I suppose. A guy is following his love to the train station. She gets on board and the train leaves forever. That is definitely Love in vain!!
  • Christy from Morristown, TnThis song is brilliant and it is The Stones best cover, ever. The vocals and the mandolin, in particular, are incredible!
  • James from Bronx, NyAwesome song. Live version is GREAT
  • Demian from Buenos Aires, ArgentinaThe Stones in the '60s and '70s recorded this song, the best version is "madisson square garden 1972". The stones recorded other songs of Robert Jonson like Stop Breaking Down, in Exile on Main Street. Wonderfull version.
  • Benjamin from Milwaukie (oak Grove), OrIs it true the Dixie Chicks got the idea for adding the mandolin for their version of Fleetwood Mac's 1975 hit "Landslide" by listening to the Stones' version of "Love in Vain"?
  • R from Montreal, Qc, CanadaI agree the version on Ya Ya's Out is incredible specially with Taylor's solo.
    The one on Let It Bleed gives a great respect to R Johnson.
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaI'm the exact opposite of you Stefanie!
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI've never heard this version, but I love Johnson's version. It's incredible I think!
  • Keith from Front Royal, VaI think they improved it immensely.
  • Sammy from New York, NyIt's tough for me to say which version is better between Johnson's and the Stones'. I must give Johnson credit for originally composing the song, but I think the Stones' version has more of an emotional impact on me. The music combined with Mick Jagger's passionate wails are deeply poignant.
  • Xx from Whakatane, Hong KongThe best Stones cover ever. Again, the version on Get Yer Ya-Yas out is really good.
  • Nick from San Francisco, CaJohnson's version is rougher, but better I think. I like the Stones' version, though.
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