Category Archives: Classic Blues Songs

The fight for freedom: “Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho”

The fight for freedom: “Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho”

My old friend Eddy told me last Friday in the local bar how he won “the battle of Jericho” against the local water company in a lawsuit. The local water company had
threatened him for a few months with bills, but he fought back. They claimed they would close the water connection to his house down, again he fought back. He wrote the courthouse a few times and this last Friday he told me while drinking a couple of beers that he won the lawsuit in style.

His adventure at the courthouse reminded me of the gospelblues song “Jericho”. Although it is not to be compared with the struggle for freedom many of the “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho” singers had back in the day, for Eddy it felt just like that.

The traditional “Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho” was recorded by the greatest in Rock ‘n Roll, Blues and Gospel. A favorite version of “Jericho” was difficult to find because the list of “Jericho” singers contains artist like Elvis Presley, Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Hugh Laurie and they all made a masterpiece of this classic blues song in a different era.

Joshua fit the battle of Jericho
Jericho, Jericho
Joshua fit the battle of Jericho
And the walls come tumblin’ down, that mornin’

Roots of The Battle of Jericho

5196992332_edbbdeda3d_b (1)
Credit feature picture: Luiz Fernando Reis on Flickr Elvis Presley cor 05 via photopin (license)

The lyrics allude to the biblical story of the Battle of Jericho, in which Joshua led the Israelitesagainst Canaan (Joshua6:15-21). However, like those of many other spirituals, the words may also be alluding to eventual escape from slavery – in the case of this song, “And the walls came tumblin’ down.”[4] The lively melody and rhythm also provided energy and inspiration.[5] (Wikipedia Jericho)

In the Blues and Gospel tradition “Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho is a well-known African-American spiritual and believed to have been composed by slaves in the first half of the 19th century. Even today this song is heard in churches around the world every sonday.

When I told my friend Eddy about Jericho, he remembered the version of Mahalia Jackson. She was a stateful woman and one of the best Gospel singer around. The most beautiful Mahalia version of this song, was her performance as she appeared in 1957 singing on the Nat King Cole show.

Fit The Battle Of Jericho-Mahalia Jackson

Elvis Presley Cover of Jericho

Elvis Presley recorded “Jericho ” on october 30, at the RCA studio in Memphis. It was first released on “His Hand In Mine” album later that year. Presley’s voice is great in this song while the backgound singers bring a great melancholy to the song.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe cover and Bluesy Remix

You should also listen tot Sister Rosetta Tharpe singing “Jericho”. I’ll bet she would still make a hit record out of “Jericho” today and that must have been the reason for French DJ duo C2C to cover and remix this blues song in 2013. C2C used a killerbeat to accentuate the hip hop groove in Sister Rosetta’ singing.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Jericho

Sister Rosetta Tharpe Jericho (C2C Remix)

The most bluesy version is made by British musician and actor Hugh Laurie who turned it into a slightly New Orleans blues song. Of all songs on this page Laurie turned it into the slowest version.

Credit feature picture:By Dave Brinkman (ANEFO) (GaHetNa (Nationaal Archief NL)) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Library congress LC-USZ62-91314

Delta Rhythm Boys – Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho

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Classic Blues Songs and Traditional: Goin’ Down Slow

Classic Blues Songs and Traditional: Goin’ Down Slow


Some blues songs contributed so much to the history of blues and music that the can be named classic songs, or even a traditional. A few musicians have that honour. One of them is St. Louis Jimmy Oden. Goin’ Down Slow’ written by his hand in 1941 is covered over a forty times, and in my opinion it would still be a hit.

This November it rained so hard you wouldn’t think about goin´ out on the street. And yeah there was I walking to the city centre. Muddy Waters, best recordings was on headphone. The song: Goin’ Down Slow. It was what you can call right song on the right time. Wet from the rain, and cold from the wind. After Muddy version was finished. I searched for more versions while freezing my hands of. Wolf, Walter, Dupree, Charles and Sonny Terry’s Goin’ Down Slow made that terrible walk a pleasure. I searched around and found a whole lot of covers of Oden’s Masterpiece. Some of old dogs in blues, also a lot of new bluesman.

The Original: St. Louis Jimmy Oden Blues composer

St. Louis Jimmy Oden was a profilic composer from St. Louis alongside Roosevelt Sykes, Oden travelled throughout the south, mid-west and eventually settled in Chicago. Those days piano and guitar teams where popular around St. Louis. Odin recorded Goin’ Down Slow on November 11, 1941, and was issued on Bluebird records that year.

Other recording Goin’ Down Slow

More than forty times this traditional blues song had been recorded. Champion Jack Dupree, Roosevelt Sykes and Ray Charles where the first musicians to cover Oden’s hit. Almost every recording of Goin’ Down Slow stays close to the original. Howlin’ Wolf however, slightly changed some of the lyrics with the help of Willie Dixon. Wolf and Dixon made a greet dialog song of Goin’ Down Slow. How life for a man slowly slips away. Especially this rhyme:

“Man, you know I done enjoyed things
That Kings and Queens will never have
In fact, Kings and Queens can never get
And they don’t even know about it and good times?”

Howlin’ Wolf – Goin’ Down Slow

The bluesman who dominated the scene for a whole lot of years Howlin’ Wolf recorded Goin’ Down Slow in 1961 for Chess Record. His version is the grittiest, darkest and baddest of all, and therefore maybe the best. You would think It was written for Howlin’ Wolf. Willie Dixon added a few lyrics to the song.

“Now looky here, I did not say I was a millionaire
But I said I have spent more money than a millionaire
‘Cause if I had kept all of the money I done already spent
I would’ve been a millionaire, a long time ago
And women? Great googly moogly”

Little Walter – Goin’ Down Slow

Especially the intro of Walter’s Goin’ Down Slow is amazing, this true electric version is like a opera. Walter really creates the tradegy of the song, and makes it a real blues hit. The electric guitar part is deep and leading in this song. You wouldn’t expect such a leading guitar part in a Little Walter song.

Cousin Joe – Goin’ Down Slow

Down in New Orleans Cousin Joe recorded Goin’ Down Slow in 1994 on his Bad Luck Blues Album. Like you would expect from Cousin Joe the piano is a bit groovy, but Joe’s voice is the key to listening to this song. Joe preaches slow.

Sonny Terry & Brownie MC Ghee – Goin’ Down Slow

Like you would expect from Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee they turn this blues traditional into a Delta Folk mixer. Like most of the versions Goin’ Down Slow is a slow song, but Sonny adds with his harmonica a whole lotta groove into the composition.

BB King – Goin’ Down Slow

One of the few who make this Goin’ Down Slow a groovy rhythm full song is BB King. Especially the ongoing beat makes this song. But BB soulful voice is absolute fantastic.

After listening to al the version of Jimmy Oden’s masterpiece I really favoured the versions of Wolf and Walter. A few weeks later BB King was the man to listen to. There aren’t that many songs that have been recorded so many times, and that is a great thing about this song. You will change your favourite version a couple of time. But the song never changes.

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Best Blues songs “Got My Mojo Working”

Best Blues songs “Got My Mojo Working”

“Got My Mojo Working” is a what you call a classic song, everybody around in world of Blues and Rock ‘n Roll music performed it once, twice or maybe three times since it was released by Ann Cole in 1956. It is the Voodoo, the Mojo that got this song working. Maybe the rhythmic groove or the swinging lyrics. One thing is sure. “Got My Mojo Working” is milestone in music History.

Muddy Waters’ version was released in 1957 and is still a hit if it would be released nowadays. I’ll bet it would be the best song in the charts. Willie Dixon plays bass on the recording. You should expect that Dixon wrote the song because it is a very Dixon-like song. And like all his other songs it is a monster blues hit.

Hollywood actor and songwriter Preston S. Foster

By Trailer screenshot (Twice Blessed trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Trailer screenshot (Twice Blessed trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
But Dixon didn´t wrote the song. The copyright holder of the original “Got My Mojo Working” Is Preston S. Foster – the actor who played in over forty movies like American Empire (1942), Kansas City Confidential (1952) and The Last Mile (1932). He has a star on the Hollywood Boulevard, and for what we know he didn’t wrote a lot of songs. It is maybe one of the biggest surprises in music history.

Foster’s version was first recorded by Ann Cole a wonderful woman who toured around the south alongside Muddy Waters in the fifties. Ann recorded for several labels like Timely an Baton Records. She had minor hits over the years. A year after she sang “Got My Mojo Working” Muddy Released his version on Chess Records. That song is still one of best songs around and would become a major hit. Waters heard Cole perform on tour and got inspired to make his own version of it.

Kitty Daisy And Lewis Got that Mojo

After Ann Cole and Muddy Waters over a triple dozen artist would play the song like Elvis Presley, Canned Heat, Mannfred Mann, J.J. Cale, Art Blakey, Otis Rush, Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter and recently Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. Some versions of “Got My Mojo Working” are absolutely worth listening.

For example Kitty, Daisy and Lewis from England. A blues group consisting two beautiful woman playing blues like a M*’f*cker. Especially their version on the French television is a must listen. This family band rocks the blues with some fantastic harmonica solos. Watch it here…

Elvis Presley’s Got My Mojo Working

Elvis Presley’s version of ‘Got My Mojo Working’ was part of his “Elvis Sings…” album and a real rhythm and blues kind of songs. Elvis changed the lyrics a little bit in comparison with Waters or Foster’s versions. Presley recorded a lot of blues songs throughout his career one of his greater blues songs is Evil which he performed in the 1958 movie King Creole

BB King recorded the song on his “King Size” and is a real grooving version a true boogie song.

Elvis Presley

BB King

The Zombies
The British band The Zombies covered “Got My Mojo Working in a beat-version a sixties pop song

“Got My Mojo Working” is a true Blues Classic and even now some of the greatest musicians keep covering the great song originally written by Preston Foster, but popularised by Muddy Waters in 1957. If you’re interested in some other great versions listen to the Spotify playlist below.

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Spoonful by Blues Hit Maker Willie Dixon

Men lies about little,
Some of them cries about little,
Some of them dies about littles,
Everything fight about a spoonful,
Dat spoon, dat spoon, dat …

Spoonful by Blues Hit Maker Willie Dixon

Some people understand how music has to be made. How the groove and feel of a song has to fit perfectly with the lyrics. How a song should be performed and how the singer should sing it. Willie Dixon was the hit maker of the blues. A man who was the blues and knew how it should be performed. We can recall a dozen of songs Dixon wrote  like “My Babe”, Hoochie Coochie Man and Little Red Rooster that are absolute blues classics. Today the classic song is “Spoonful”.

Meaning of Spoonful

In his biography I am the Blues, Dixon explained the meaning of the song. It doesn’t take a large amount of anything to be good. If you have a little money when you need it, you’re right there in the right spot. (Willie Dixon, i am the Blues, p 148). Many people thought the song spoonful was a metaphor  for drugs. Especially after Cream covered the song in a psychedelic way on their Fresh Cream album. The song was part of the sixties counter culture .

Willie_Dixon_1979_ Wiki photo by Len Carlson
Willie_Dixon_1979_ Wiki photo by Len Carlson

Willie Dixon wrote the song that was first performed by Howlin’ Wolf in 1960. Dixons´ Spoonful was loosely based on A Spoonful Blues from Charley Patton, recorded in 1929. That song relates to All I Want Is A Spoonful by Papa Charlie Jackson (1925) . Howlin´ Wolf who was known for his howlin’ made a slow and relaxed version of the song, with no howlin’ but accompanied with groovy guitar and rhythmic piano.

After Howlin´Wolf Etta James recorded the song in 1961. For the version of Etta James she added to her golden voice a Bazzy Big Band sound . The song was a duet with Harvey Fuqua recorded like a dialogue between James and Foqua. The interpretation of the song changed a little, the lyrics  relate to men’s sometimes violent search to satisfy their cravings.

Psychedelic version Spoonful: Cream

The most alternative version of Spoonful is without a doubt Creams version. The song was often performed live and lasted easily fifteen minutes. Especially the improvisation of Clapton, Bruce and Baker the song starts with brilliant. On Youtube you can’t find the fifteen or twenty minute version, but these eight minutes are pretty great too!

Willie Dixon greatest Blues hits

Especially in the sixties Spoonful was widely performed by a lot of blues and beat musicians. Other versions of the song I did not mention but are absolutely worth listening are the Q 65 version, a Dutch beat band. Canned Heat’s version of the song or George Thorogood’s.

Spoonful was just one of the great songs of Willie Dixon. He always made his songs work, her recalls it in his biography: “It couldn’t make sense you can’t make peace if you want to make peace”.

Etta James: Spoonful

Cream: Spoonfull

Howlin Wolf – Spoonful (Psychedelic version)

Other Versions of Spoonful on Spotify.

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Most recorded songs: Baby Please Don’t Go

Most recorded songs: Baby Please Don’t Go

Baby Please Don’t Go was originally recorded by Big Joe Williams in 1935 on Bluebird records. Big Joe could never for see the influence the song would have on music history. This song is recorded, performed and sang in so many versions by so many musicians. For that, I put some of my favourite versions in line. Continue reading Most recorded songs: Baby Please Don’t Go

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