Sunday, March 27, 2005

Nobody's Fault But Mine

Right now, on VH1 classic, they're playing some Celtic/Plant & Page event. Plant's stomping around this giant pile of rocks singing "Nobody's Fault But Mine." Nobody's Fault but Mine Nobody's Fault but Mine If I don't raise my soul [something: to the light, delight] I have an old version of this on a tape some place, probably from Elias, that is a whole lot different. It goes: Nobody's Fault but Mine Nobody's Fault but Mine If I don't read and my soul be lost Ain't nobody's fault but mine The first verse is something like Sister, she taught me how to read Sister, she taught me how to read [this one might be "write"] If I don't read and my soul be lost Ain't nobody's fault but mine And the second verse is I got a Bible in my home I got a Bible in my home If I don't read and my soul be lost Aint nobody's fault but mine. Sadly, for Plant, I like the old one better. I think it resonates on a lot more levels. But listening to Plant got me thinking, maybe I've been mis-hearing the old version all this time. It's kind of a crappy recording from a crappy original, and maybe I've just constructed a blues song all about the anxiety of knowing that there's important information you might need that you lack the skills and patience to access. Hmm...

4 Comments:

Blogger Steve Pick said...

I'm on this for you, with a little help from Google.

The Plant version is from Led Zeppelin, originally on the album "Presence." Here are his lyrics:

Nobody's fault but mine (X 2)
Trying to save my soul tonight
It's nobody's fault but mine

Devil he told me to roll (X2)
How to roll the log tonight
Nobody's fault but mine

Brother he showed me the gong?
Brother he showed me the ding dong ding dong
How to roll, the log tonight
Oh, it's nobody's fault but mine

Got a monkey on my back. (X 2)
Gonna change my ways tonight
Nobody's fault but mine

I will get down rollin' tonight
Nobody's fault

But, the oldest recorded version comes from Blind Willie Johnson. Here's what he sang:

Nobody's fault but mine, nobody's fault but mine.
If I don't read it my soul be lost.

I have a Bible in my home, I have a Bible in my home.
If I don't read it my soul be lost.

Mmm, Father he taught me how to read, Father he taught me how to read.
If I don't read it my soul be lost, nobody's fault but mine.

Ah, Lord, Lord, nobody's fault but mine.
If I don't read it my soul be lost.

Ah, I have a Bible of my own, I have a Bible of my own.
If I don't read it my soul be lost.

Oh, Mother she taught me how to read, Mother she taught me how to read.
If I don't read it my soul be lost, nobody's fault but mine.

Ah, Lord, Lord, nobody's fault but mine.
If I don't read it my soul be lost.

And Sister she taught me how to read, Sister she taught me how to read.
If I don't read it my soul be lost, nobody's fault but mine.

Ah, mmmm, Lord, Lord, nobody's fault but mine.
If I don't read it my soul'd be lost, mmmm


Your memory is much closer to his version, but the odds are good this was a traditional song co-opted by Johnson, and thus you could have learned any number of versions through one path or another. Personally, I'm smelling a Sunday School class in one of those Southern towns you passed through as a lass.

3/28/2005 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

If we'd learned old blues songs in Sunday school, I'd probably still be hauling my ass to church, problems with organized religion aside.

Really, I'm surprised, with the popularity of contemporary praise and worship services that someone doesn't have a 'blues service.'

The project I've been working on has this great part where the folks down in Clarksdale (in the early 1940s) are talking about 'Heaven and Hell' parties that the church youth groups would throw and how you'd show up at the church and be 'judged' and, if you got into Heaven, you'd go to one room where you'd have punch and cookies and listen to good music and praise God, and if you were sent to Hell, you had to go listen to the Blues and, if you were really (un)lucky have "lewd dancing."

As you might expect, many of the people in Clarksdale felt that such parties sent the wrong message--that Heaven was boring and Hell was sexy fun--but they were so popular with the young people that they couldn't really stop them.

3/28/2005 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Steve Pick said...

But, Blind Willie Johnson wasn't properly a blues performer. He mostly sang religious songs, and if I recall correctly, he wasn't so much up on the brand new (at the time) sort of gospel songs as written by Thomas A. Dorsey, but was more in the older traditions (with kind of a bluesy update, I think).

So, I'm figuring that older spirituals could have crossed over between black and white churches, and thus you could have learned a version based on the same source. Or maybe not.

This project you're working on sounds fascinating. I love the idea of the heaven and hell parties. That ol' devil, he's sometimes a genius.

3/29/2005 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Well, then, Blind Willie Johnson is going on my wish list. I know next to nothing about him, but, if his is the version of "Nobody's Fault But Mine" that I know, then I'm an unwitting fan.

Weird, looking at the track list of "The Complete Blind Willie Johnson," I'm startled by how many songs I know. My dad sings "I'm gonna run to the city of Refuge" and "If I had my way, I'd tear this building down" around the house all the time. In fact, "If I had my way" is the second in his two-fer--along with "House of the Rising Sun"--of great guitar songs in which he sits on the couch and strums and wails and makes like he's a rock star.

Maybe he's a Blind Willie Johnson fan and had a record or something when I was growing up.

My parents--I've known them all my life and they keep surprising me.

Now, I want to just have a "Hell" party where we put in Muddy Waters' Plantation Recordings and dance lewdly around a church basement.

3/29/2005 11:34:00 AM  

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