“I’ve Got a Mind to Give Up Living”
Songs that become standards are like a rorschach test for a musician, and while working on my book Crossroads, which will focus on the interactions between the genres of blues and rock, it’s been both fun and instructive to listen to various versions of the same song. “I’ve Got a Mind to Give Up Living” is a slow minor-key blues, and one of the great pleasures of my life has been performing it with my band the Comfy Chair. I knew the song from the Butterfield Blues Band, and Steve Burgh, who played bass for David Bromberg before adding his guitar and production expertise to early works by Steve Forbert and Phoebe Snow, played his lead guitar in a ferocious manner reminiscent of Mike Bloomfield. One night between sets, I was surprised to hear the song sung by B.B. King on the club’s sound system. Here’s B. B. playing the tune on 1960’s TV:
The Butterfield Blues Band, who cut their collective teeth in the blues bars of Chicago, recorded the tune on their second album, East-West. “B.B. was such an influence,” said Bloomfield, “and I know Clapton learned from him.” Bloomfield paid back the inspiration by encouraging promoter Bill Graham to book King and other bluesmen into the Fillmore, offering both a respite from the chitlin’ circuit and exposure to a whole new audience. (Decades later, Clapton cut an album with B.B., 2000‘s Riding With the King.) Here’s a 1966 recording of the Butterfield band playing “I’ve Got a Mind to Give Up Living” at the Unicorn in Boston:
The original Fleetwood Mac, formed by guitarist Peter Green upon leaving John Mayall’s Bluesbreaks (where he had replaced Eric Clapton), was arguably the best of all British blues bands. Indeed, B.B. King has been quoted saying “the only guitarist who’s sent shivers down my spine was Peter Green.” He could well be talking about this scintillating solo from a 1970 Fleetwood Mac show at the Warehouse in New Orleans:
Musicians sometimes know all too much of the blues they play. Peter Green left Fleetwood Mac shortly after this recording. Emotionally fragile and uncomfortable in the role of pop star, Green had slipped into mental illness after one-too-many acid trips. While he’s begun recording and performing in recent years, he’s a shadow of his gifted past. Bloomfield left the Butterfield Blues Band after East-West, cut one album with the Electric Flag, and then had his biggest hit alongside Al Kooper on 1968’s Super Session. But his playing and productivity deteriorated as his heroin addiction persisted. He was found dead of an overdose on February 15, 1981. Paul Butterfield, a master of the harmonica, passed away six years later, at the age of 44. My friend Steve Burgh died of a massive heart attack in 2005.
B.B. King, bless his 85-year-old soul, continues to sing and play the blues.
This was originally posted at ‘Down on the Corner’ at http://johnmilward.posterous.com/