The Rolling Stones

Love in Vain

Composed by Robert Johnson

Song Review by

In the late '60s, Delta blues legend Robert Johnson wasn't nearly as famous, or as well known to the general public, as he would be within a couple of decades or so. If he was known at all, often it was because Cream had covered his song "Crossroads." "Love in Vain" was the second Johnson song to benefit from getting covered by a truly big-name rock band when the Rolling Stones put it on their Let It Bleed album in 1969. The sole non-original on the record, it was indicative of the Stones' turn toward acoustic country blues for much of their inspiration in the waning days of the 1960s. Though Let It Bleed wasn't steeped quite as much in rural blues as its predecessor, Beggars Banquet, "Love in Vain" was certainly as far in that direction as they ever went, in the '60s or at any other time. the Stones didn't tinker much with Johnson's doleful tale of being left behind by a lover at a train station. What they did do was make it more accessible to a modern (and usually white) audience, simply by virtue of much clearer recording technology; Jagger's drawling vocals, which were easier for modern ears to comprehend than the ones heard on Johnson 78s; and some modest blues-rock backing to take it from the strictly acoustic territory, highlighted by Keith Richards' electric slide guitar. the Stones also included a live version on their Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! album that's about equally as well known, differing from their studio interpretation in the absence of mandolin, which had been played on the Let It Bleed version by guest musician Ry Cooder.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1964 ABKCO Records 3:31
Let It Bleed 1969 ABKCO Records 4:19
No Image 1972 Swingin' Pig
No Image 1977 Blank Records
No Image 1985 Import
12 X 5/Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! 1999 CD Maximum
Remastered Series 2004 ABKCO Records 4:56
The Rolling Stones 1964-1969 [Vinyl Box Set] 2010 ABKCO Records / Universal Distribution 4:19
No Image 2015 ABKCO Records 4:07
The Rolling Stones in Mono 2016 ABKCO Records 4:19