Robert Johnson

Love in Vain

Composed by Robert Johnson

Song Review by

Arguably Robert Johnson’s single most beautiful song, “Love In Vain” is simply one of the finest love song a blues performer has ever written, and is heartbreakingly potent coming from an artist of Johnson’s calibre. The songs opening verse is worth quoting in full, it’s arguably the finest few lines that Johnson ever wrote – “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”. Never has Johnson’s guitar been so subtle, so much in the background – the song’s success is from the artist’s longing vocal, and as such it’s devastatingly bleak. The Rolling Stones recorded a fine version of the song on Let It Bleed, although it is heavily indebted to the original. “Love In Vain” is simply one of the singular masterpieces of the blues.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
King of the Delta Blues Singers, Vol. 2 1970 Sony Music Distribution
The Complete Recordings 1990 Camden / Sony BMG 2:21
Got the Blues [K-Tel] 1995
Various Artists
Disky 2:23
No Image 1995
Various Artists
Blues Classics [MCA] 1996
Various Artists
Disky 2:23
All Time Blues Classics 1996 Music Memoria 2:20
Love in Vain 1996 Hallmark Recordings
King of the Delta Blues: The Complete Recordings [Columbia/Legacy] 1997 Legacy / Columbia/Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:23
Masters 1998 Cleopatra 2:31
Complete Collection 1998 Prism Entertainment / Prism Leisure 2:22
Delta Blues Legend: Masterworks, Vol. 13 1999 Charly Records 2:21
Steady Rollin' Man 1999 Recall (UK) 2:23
Genius of the Blues 2000 Definitive / Definitive Classics 2:21
Great 2000 Red X
Nothing But the Blues [Import] 2000
Various Artists
Import 2:28
The Blues [Recording Arts] 2001
Various Artists
Recording Arts 2:24
Crossroad Blues [Legacy] 2002 Legacy 2:27
His Recorded Legacy: The 29 Songs 2002 Jasmine Records 2:26
Deal With the Devil, Vol. 2 2002 Arpeggio Blues 2:21
Golden Greats: Greatest Blues 2002
Various Artists
Golden Greats 2:23
The Last of the Great Blues Singers 2002 Acrobat
San Antonio to Dallas: 1936-1937 2002 Frémeaux & Associés 2:29
Contracted to the Devil 2002 Sony Music Distribution
Down at the Crossroads 2003 Indigo 2:36
Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Robert Johnson 2003 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 2:22
I Heard It on NPR: Shake These Blues 2003
Various Artists
NPR Recordings / NPR National Public Radio 2:24
I Heard It on NPR: Jazz for Blue Nights/At Home in the World/Shake These Blues 2003
Various Artists
NPR National Public Radio 2:24
No Image 2003 Mastersong
Robert Johnson and the Old School Blues 2003 Metro 2:20
From Four Till Late 2004 Snapper 2:29
Kings of the Blues 2004 Castle Pulse
A Proper Introduction to Robert Johnson: Cross Road Blues 2004 Pazzazz 2:20
Robert Johnson: Inspiring Eric 2004 Smith & Co. Sound & Vision 2:20
King of the Delta Blues, Vol. 2 2004 Sony Music
The Ultimate Blues Legend 2004 Direct Source 2:26
Complete Recordings, Vol. 2 2004 Disconforme 2:30
The Story of the Blues 2004 Blues Alliance 2:28
Robert Johnson [Fruit Tree] 2004 Fruit Tree 2:18
Guitar & Bass 2004 Sony Music Distribution 2:17
Up Jumped the Devil 2005 Pazzazz 2:25
Crossroad Blues [Pazzazz] 2005 Pazzazz 2:25
Standin' at the Crossroads 2006 BMG Special Products / Sony Music Distribution 2:23
Blues Legends/Blues in the Night 2006
Various Artists
Direct Source Special 2:27
The High Price of Soul 2007 Primo Records 2:33
Goin' Mad Blues [Membran] 2007
Various Artists
Documents 2:29
The Road to Robert Johnson 2007
Various Artists
JSP 2:18
Mississippi Blues, Vol. 4 2007 Document 2:18
Blues Classics [St. Clair] 2007
Various Artists
St. Clair 2:20
Blues Classics, Disc 1 2007
Various Artists
St. Clair 2:20
The Blues Biography 2008 United Multi Consign 2:26
The Story of Black History 2008
Various Artists
Q. 2:20
Son House & the Kings of the Delta Blues 2008
Various Artists
Primo Records / Proper Sales & Dist. 2:25
The Blues Roots of the Rolling Stones [Snapper] 2008
Various Artists
Snapper 2:29
The Complete Collection [Not Now] 2008 Not Now Music 2:21
Blues: Definitive Collection 2009
Various Artists
Music Brokers 2:25
Lonesome Whistle: An Anthology of American Railroad Songs 2012
Various Artists
Proper 2:23
The Blues 2014 One & Only Blues
No Image
Various Artists
AAO Music 2:26
No Image Prestige Elite Records 2:22
No Image
Various Artists
X5 2:22
Nothing But the Blues: Cross Road Blues History 2:28
No Image WNTS 2:27
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