Love in Vain

Robert Johnson

Song Review by Thomas Ward

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
The Complete Recordings 1990 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:25
Blues Masters, Vol. 6: Blues Originals 1993
Various Artists
Rhino 2:29
All Time Blues Classics 1996 Music Memoria 2:20
King of the Delta Blues: The Complete Recordings [Columbia/Legacy] 1997 Legacy / Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 2:23
Masters 1998 Cleopatra 2:31
Beg, Borrow or Steal: The Origins, Music and Influence of Robert Johnson 1998
Various Artists
Catfish 2:35
Complete Collection 1998 Prism Entertainment / Prism Leisure 2:22
Delta Blues Legend: Masterworks, Vol. 13 1999 Charly Records 2:30
Steady Rollin' Man 1999 Recall (UK) 2:28
Genius of the Blues 2000 Definitive 2:21
Nothing But the Blues [Import] 2000
Various Artists
Import 2:28
Robert Johnson [Dressed to Kill] 2001 Dressed To Kill 2:21
The Blues [Recording Arts] 2001
Various Artists
Recording Arts 2:24
Crossroad Blues [Legacy] 2002 Legacy 2:27
Golden Greats: Greatest Blues 2002
Various Artists
Golden Greats 2:23
The Last of the Great Blues Singers 2002 Fabulous 2:20
Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Robert Johnson 2003 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 2:22
From Four Till Late 2004 Snapper 2:29
A Proper Introduction to Robert Johnson: Cross Road Blues 2004 Proper Sales & Dist. 2:23
The Ultimate Blues Legend 2004 Direct Source 2:26
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
The High Price of Soul 2007 Primo Records 2:33
The Blues Biography 2008 United Multi Consign 2:26
The Story of Black History 2008
Various Artists
Q. 2:20
The Blues Roots of the Rolling Stones [Snapper] 2008
Various Artists
Snapper 2:29
Blues: Definitive Collection 2009
Various Artists
Music Brokers 2:25
Cross Road Blues [Not Now] 2019 Not Now Music
Blues From A Smoky Bar, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Ayia Napa / ZYX Music 2:24
Blues Gold
Various Artists
Columbia / Sony Music 2:25
Delta Blues Goin' North, Mississippi Country Blues, Vol. 1 Document
Nothing But the Blues: Cross Road Blues History 2:28