I Just Want to Make Love to You

Muddy Waters

Song Review by Bill Janovitz

"I don't want you to be no slave/I don't want you to work all day/I don't want you 'cause I'm sad and blue/I just want to make love to you." Recorded in 1954 when the writing/recording team of Willie Dixonand Muddy Waters (respectively) were at the height of their powers, "I Just Want to Make Love to You" is a hilariously honest and sensual blues classic. It was first released as a Chess single, then on the collection The Best of Muddy Waters (1958).

In an interview with David S. Rotenstein, Dixon explained the bluntness of the lyric with a similarly frank answer, "Somebody says, 'Why would he make a song, "I Just Want to Make Love to You"?' And, naturally, you could make a statement saying everybody, everything makes love one way or another and a lot of times people would like to say, 'Damn, I'd like to make love to you.'" Dixon saw his role as a songwriter much like one of his students, Chuck Berry, did: To appeal to as many people just like him as possible; it is music as communication, and the idiomatic lyrics were reflections of his audience.

Though it does not employ the exact stop-time like some other blues standards he wrote during the same era, Dixon does use the repetitive riff -- this one ebbs more than stops -- that has become so associated with electric Chicago blues it is almost a caricature of the genre. The original 1954 recording is impossibly slinky, with Otis Spann tickling out the main riff on piano, with Dixon himself finishing it off on his upright bass. Elgin Evens cracks into the breach on drums, Little Walter Jacobs wails away in the corner of the room on harmonica -- coming to the fore on a solo -- and Jimmy Rodgers's guitar underpins it all with counterpoint guitar. Waters is in the zone here, opening the song with a huskier than usual growl, along the lines of his colleague Howlin' Wolf. The bridge comes out of nowhere, as if the band is settling into a haunting easygoing groove and Waters wakes them up with his powerful bellow: "I can tell by the way you switch and walk/I can see by the way you baby talk/I can know by the way you treat your man/That I can love you baby, it's a crying shame." And then it slinkers off into the distance, fading out with Waters now down to a coo: "love to you...love to you." It is a decidedly urban production from Dixon, who did it all: wrote, performed, and recorded. To say he was not properly compensated for his work for Chess -- not to mention what he did to link blues to rock & roll -- would be a major understatement.

It is hard to imagine now, but the Rolling Stones' radical reinterpretation of the song for their American debut LP, England's Newest Hitmakers (1964), came only ten years after the original. The lads pump up the tempo to a furious clip that has an exciting adolescent urgency approaching early punk rock. Even the overproduction (with strings!) on Etta James' early cover of "I Just Want to Make Love to You" can not mask her swinging, sultry spirit. Hers was released on her 1961 Chess debut, At Last.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Best of Muddy Waters [1957 Chess] 1957 Geffen / Universal 2:51
Electric Mud 1968 Geffen / Interscope / MCA / Chess 4:18
A.K.A. McKinley Morganfield 1971 Chess 2:50
King of the Blues: The Best of Muddy Waters 1975 MCA / Chess 2:49
Chess Masters 1981
Rollin' Stone 1983 Magnum 2:35
Muddy Waters on Chess 1951-1959, Vol. 2 1984 Chess 2:51
Stoned Alchemy 1989
Various Artists
Charly Records 2:50
The Chess Box 1989 MCA / Chess 2:50
The Chess Box 1990 Chess / MCA / Universal 2:50
Muddy Waters [Bella Musica] [#2] 1991 Bella Musica / Bella Edition 2:54
Stone Rock Blues 1994
Various Artists
Got the Blues [K-Tel] 1995
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:49
Louisiana Blues 1996 Allegiance Records 2:49
The Chess Blues-Rock Songbook: The Classic Originals 1997
Various Artists
MCA / Chess 2:53
Chess Blues Classics: 1947-1956 1997
Various Artists
Chess 2:52
His Best, 1947 to 1955 1997 MCA / Chess 2:52
Best of Muddy Waters: 20th Century Masters 1999 MCA 2:52
The Anthology: 1947-1972 2001 MCA / Chess 2:52
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Blues Guitar 2003
Various Artists
Chess / MCA 2:51
Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Muddy Waters 2003 Hip-O / Universal Distribution 2:51
Universal Masters Collection 2003 MSI Music Distribution / Universal International 4:19
Chicago Soul 2004
Various Artists
Soul Jazz 4:14
Screamin' and Cryin' [Universe] 2004 Universe 2:51
Hoochie Coochie Man: Complete Chess Masters, Vol. 2: 1952-1958 2004 Fontana / Hip-O Select 2:53
Blowing the Fuse: 29 R&B Classics That Rocked the Jukebox in 1954 2005
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 2:51
Mojo Chess Originals 2005
Various Artists
Chess 2:51
The Definitive Collection 2006 Geffen 2:52
The Blues Masters 2006
Various Artists
Classics & Jazz 2:51
Father of Chicago Blues [Primo] 2007 Primo Records 2:48
Not Fade Away: 15 Classics That Fired Up the Rolling Stones 2008
Various Artists
Uncut Music 2:51
Triple Best of Blues 2008
Various Artists
Decca / Universal / Universal Distribution 2:50
Icon 2011 Geffen / MCA 2:50
Electric Mud/After the Rain 2011 Beat Goes On 4:20
50 of the Most Influential Blues Songs of the 20th Century 2011
Various Artists
Jasmine Records 2:52
The Best of Muddy Waters [Geffen] 2017 Geffen / Island 0:00
Confessin' the Blues 2018
Various Artists
BMG 2:53
50 Shades of Music For Her
Various Artists
Golden Stars / Goldies 2:51
Blues Greats [Time Life]
Various Artists
Time / Life Music
Chicago Blues MCA
Stone Rock Blues: Original Recordings of Songs Covered by the Rolling Stones
Various Artists
Chess / Geffen / Strategic Marketing 2:51
The Best of Muddy Waters [JCI] JCI Associated Labels 2:50
The Ultimate Blues Album, Vol.1
Various Artists
Universal 2:50
They Call Me Muddy Waters [Ch] Ch