Led Zep Rips Off Blind Willie Johnson

Here we go again. That Zep’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” is lifted from Johnson’s tune of the same name is hardly a deep secret. (I knew it myself but had forgotten until I finished a piece on the Johnson covers album and happened to play No Quarter, where the arrangement is the most blatantly derivative of the blues-gospel original). As always, it’s a mixed public-material message — Johnson “borrowed” a bunch of the lyrics from commonplace Christian homilies. But it’s plainly the same tune and that Johnson gets zilch is damned wrong. Even more so because he has no estate that I know of. The frickin’ royalties from that one cut alone could bankroll a little museum devoted to him in Texas.

3 thoughts on “Led Zep Rips Off Blind Willie Johnson

  1. As the credits roll in “The Big Short” Led Z’s great version of “When The Levee Breaks”, from LZ IV, plays from start to finish. I don’t know if the LZ management payed any royalties to owners of the rights of the song, written by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie. But it seems an especially appropriate song for that movie if no royalties were ever paid, kinda lumping LZ into the fraudulent worlds of Wall Street, Baseball, the food industry, politics, religion and you name it.

  2. Haw haw. True enough. This can be a fraught topic. Here’s a big fat blog set about it:


    The remarks below contains fine examples of Comment Section Plague #1 — taking a sober, reasonable argument and twisting it into something truly stupid and offensive. “Page and Plant didn’t properly credit all their sources so therefore Led Zeppelin SUUUUUUUUUUX!!”

    The second comment refers to a lawsuit brought somehow by Blind Willie Johnson, which I have never heard about, but certainly possible.

    For the record, I hear “In My Time of Dying” as clearly derived from Josh White and think the “Taurus” claims are mere coincidence.

  3. Pingback: Alex Ross on the Bull About “Taurus” | Miles To Go

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