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Keb’ Mo’ Slows Down for Love in Vain

This week we bring Keb’ Mo’ performing a stellar version of Robert Johnson’s classic “Love In Vain” on Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis, which aired on May 12, 2006. “Love in Vain Blues” was originally written by Johnson in 1937, with its musical structure derived from a Leroy Carr song called “In the Evenin’ When the Sun Goes Down.” The song is about unrequited love, and uses a departing train as a metaphor for the loss.

One of the most famous renditions of the song was the version recorded in 1969 for The Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed album. The Stones were greatly impressed by the tune, and Keith Richards has said, “‘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.” Other cover versions of the song have been done by Walter Trout, Eric Clapton, and Todd Rundgren.

As one of Keb’ Mo’s most beautiful and moving covers, he makes the song distinctively his own, with his smooth style but still pays plenty homage to Robert Johnson’s original take. He also recorded it for his 1998 album Slow Down,  which won him his second Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Enjoy!


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