Love In Vain - Honeyfeet

from the album Orange Whip (2018)

For a songwriter, each composition is like a child; you give it life, socialize it a bit, and set it out in the world.  Most survive only briefly, never making it too far from home.  Other long endure, traveling the world, meeting exciting people, and maybe even making a difference in people's lives.

Robert Leroy Johnson was born on May 11, 1911 in Hazelhurst, Mississippi.  A gifted musician, he travelled along the Mississippi Delta playing gigs, drinking whiskey, and womanizing.

In 1937, he had the opportunity to record some of his songs in San Antonio.  The following year, he recorded again in Dallas.  In those two sessions, he recorded 29 songs that are today recognized as the Rosetta Stone of American Blues.  These songs included Come On In My Kitchen, Sweet Home Chicago, and Crossroad Blues.

He died a few months after the second recording session.  He was twenty seven years old.

Love In Vain is, perhaps, my favorite of these songs.  It is a testament to heartbreak and loss.  The recording captures his most tender guitar playing.  The vocal is mournful, giving pain to visual imagery of the lyrics:

And I followed her to the station
With a suitcase in my hand
Well I followed her to the station
With a suitcase in my hand
Well it's hard to tell
It's hard to tell
When all your love's in vain

The song would find its greatest audience in 1969, when The Rolling Stones included a countrified adaptation on the tune on their classic album Let It Bleed.

Today, the song has once again found new life in a soulful jazz rendition by Honeyfeet,  This version is a delight to listen to.  In particular, the gospel-inspired hums of the backing vocalists give me chills.  The lead vocal and guitar solo are also moving.

Oh, to write songs that talented musicians around the world would still be recording eighty years after your death...

Click Here to listen to Honeyfeet's rendition of Robert Johnson's Love In Vain.

Click Here to listen to Robert Johnson's original recording of Love In Vain.