|"Born Under a Bad Sign"|
|Single by Albert King|
|from the album Born Under a Bad Sign|
|Format||7-inch 45 rpm record|
|Recorded||May 17, 1967|
|Studio||Stax, Memphis, Tennessee|
|Songwriter(s)||Booker T. Jones, William Bell|
"Born Under a Bad Sign" is a blues song recorded by American blues singer and guitarist Albert King in 1967. Called "a timeless staple of the blues",the song also had strong crossover appeal to the rock audience with its synchronous bass and guitar lines and topical astrology reference. "Born Under a Bad Sign" became an R&B chart hit for King and numerous blues and other musicians have made it perhaps the most recorded Albert King song.
Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1870s by African Americans from roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs, and spirituals. Blues incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll, is characterized by the call-and-response pattern, the blues scale and specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common. Blue notes, usually thirds, fifths or sevenths flattened in pitch are also an essential part of the sound. Blues shuffles or walking bass reinforce the trance-like rhythm and form a repetitive effect known as the groove.
Albert Nelson, known by his stage name Albert King, was an American blues guitarist and singer whose playing influenced many other blues guitarists. He is perhaps best known for the popular and influential album Born Under a Bad Sign (1967) and its title track. He is one of the three performers known as the "Kings of the Blues."
The lyrics to "Born Under a Bad Sign" were written by Stax Records rhythm and blues singer William Bell with music by Stax bandleader Booker T. Jones (of Booker T. & the M.G.'s). Bell recalled, "We needed a blues song for Albert King ... I had this idea in the back of my mind that I was gonna do myself. Astrology and all that stuff was pretty big then. I got this idea that [it] might work." The lyrics describe "hard luck and trouble" tempered by "wine and women", with wordplay in the chorus in the turnaround:
Stax Records is an American record label, originally based in Memphis, Tennessee. Founded in 1957 as Satellite Records, the label changed its name to Stax Records in 1961 and shared its operations with Volt Records, a sister label created to avoid the impression of favoritism among radio stations playing their records.
Rhythm and blues, commonly abbreviated as R&B, is a genre of popular music that originated in African American communities in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a heavy, insistent beat" was becoming more popular. In the commercial rhythm and blues music typical of the 1950s through the 1970s, the bands usually consisted of piano, one or two guitars, bass, drums, one or more saxophones, and sometimes background vocalists. R&B lyrical themes often encapsulate the African-American experience of pain and the quest for freedom and joy, as well as triumphs and failures in terms of relationships, economics, and aspirations.
William Bell is an American soul singer and songwriter. As a performer, he is probably best known for his debut single, 1961's "You Don't Miss Your Water"; 1968's top 10 hit in the UK "Private Number", a duet with Judy Clay; and his only US top 40 hit, 1976's "Tryin' to Love Two", which also hit No. 1 on the R&B chart. Upon the death of Otis Redding, Bell released the well-received memorial song "A Tribute to a King".
Born under a bad sign, been down since I began to crawl
If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all
Similar lyrics are found in Lightnin' Slim's 1954 swamp blues song "Bad Luck Blues":
Otis Verries Hicks, known as Lightnin' Slim, was an American Louisiana blues musician, who recorded for Excello Records and played in a style similar to its other Louisiana artists. The blues critic ED Denson ranked him as one of the five great bluesmen of the 1950s, along with Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson.
Swamp blues is a type of Louisiana blues that developed around Baton Rouge in the 1950s and 1960s. It generally has a slow tempo and incorporates influences from other genres, particularly zydeco and Cajun. Its most successful proponents included Slim Harpo and Lightnin' Slim, who enjoyed national rhythm and blues hits and whose work was frequently covered by bands in the British Invasion.
Lord if it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all (2×)
You know bad luck has been followin' poor Lightnin', ever since I began to crawl
Now folks I was born in the last month of the year
Jones's arrangement for the song does not follow the typical twelve-bar blues I-IV-V progression. Rather, it is dominated by an R&B-style bass/rhythm guitar line, which Bell claimed that he came up with "while fooling around on the guitar".Albert King provided his signature guitar fills around his vocals and solos during the break and outro, with backing by Booker T. & the M.G.'s and the Memphis Horns.
The twelve-bar blues is one of the most prominent chord progressions in popular music. The blues progression has a distinctive form in lyrics, phrase, chord structure, and duration. In its basic form, it is predominantly based on the I, IV, and V chords of a key.
The Memphis Horns were an American horn section made famous by their many appearances on Stax Records. They have been called "arguably the greatest soul horn section ever." Originally a sextet, the Memphis Horns gradually slimmed down to a duo, Wayne Jackson on trumpet and Andrew Love on tenor saxophone.
"Born Under a Bad Sign" became a Billboard R&B chart hit for King, reaching number 49.It was later included on his first album for Stax, also titled Born Under a Bad Sign . The album's cover depicts images of "bad luck signs" or common superstitions, including a black cat, a Friday the 13th calendar page, skull and crossbones, ace of spades, and snake eyes. Subsequently, the song has appeared on numerous King and various artist collections.
Born Under a Bad Sign is the second studio album by Albert King, released in 1967. The album became "one of the most popular and influential blues albums of the late '60s" and has been acknowledged by the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone magazine.
A black cat is a domestic cat with black fur that may be a mixed or specific breed, or a common domestic cat of no particular breed. The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) recognizes 22 cat breeds that can come with solid black coats. The Bombay breed is exclusively black. All-black fur pigmentation is slightly more prevalent in male cats than female cats. Their high melanin pigment content causes most black cats to have yellow (golden) eyes (irises).
Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition. It occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday, which happens at least once every year but can occur up to three times in the same year, for example in 2015, the 13th fell on a Friday in February, March, and November. In 2016, Friday the 13th occurred in May. In 2017, it occurred twice, in January and October. In 2018, it also occurred twice, in April and July. There will be two Friday the 13ths every year until 2020. The years 2021 and 2022 will have just one occurrence each.
Albert King recorded an updated version of "Born Under a Bad Sign" with producer Allen Toussaint for his 1978 New Orleans Heat album. Live versions are included on Wednesday Night in San Francisco , Chicago 1978, In Session with Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Godfather of the Blues: His Last European Tour 1992, and Talkin' Blues (see Albert King discography for album details).
Allen Toussaint was an American musician, songwriter, arranger and record producer, who was an influential figure in New Orleans rhythm and blues from the 1950s to the end of the century, described as "one of popular music's great backroom figures". Many musicians recorded Toussaint's compositions, including "Java", "Mother-in-Law", "I Like It Like That", "Fortune Teller", "Ride Your Pony", "Get Out of My Life, Woman", "Working in the Coal Mine", "Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky", "Here Come the Girls", "Yes We Can Can", "Play Something Sweet", and "Southern Nights". He was a producer for hundreds of recordings, among the best known of which are "Right Place, Wrong Time", by his longtime friend Dr. John, and "Lady Marmalade", by Labelle.
Wednesday Night in San Francisco is a blues album by Albert King, recorded live in 1968 at the Fillmore Auditorium. This album, together with Thursday Night in San Francisco, contains leftovers recorded live on the same dates as Live Wire/Blues Power. Wednesday Night in San Francisco, released in 1990, contains material recorded on June 26, 1968.
In Session is a blues album by Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughan recorded live for television on December 6, 1983, at CHCH-TV studios in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, when Vaughan was 29 and King was 60. It was released as an album on August 17, 1999 and re-released with a supplemental video recording on DVD on September 28, 2010. It has also been released on CD and SACD.
|"Born Under a Bad Sign"|
|Song by Cream|
|from the album Wheels of Fire|
|Released||August 9, 1968|
|Songwriter(s)||Booker T. Jones, William Bell|
British rock group Cream recorded "Born Under a Bad Sign" for their third album, Wheels of Fire (1968). The group's record company, which also distributed Stax records, requested that they record it, according to guitarist Eric Clapton. Cream's rendition follows Albert King's, except for bassist and singer Jack Bruce combining two verses into "I've been down ever since I was ten" and an extended guitar solo by Clapton. Musicologist Robert Palmer described Clapton's playing as "practically Albert King parodies".
Cream recorded a live version for the BBC October 24, 1967, which was released on BBC Sessions in 2003. Another live version was recorded during their reunion performances in 2005 and included on Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6, 2005 .
In 1988, Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign" was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame. Writing for the Foundation, Jim O'Neal called it "one of the signature hits of Albert King that started to win the left-handed string-bender a crossover following in 1967, as he began to break out of the chittlin circuit to invade rock venues like the Fillmore".King's song is also included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". It has also been recorded by many artists in a variety of styles.
Eric Patrick Clapton, is an English rock and blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist and separately as a member of the Yardbirds and of Cream. Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time. Clapton ranked second in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" and fourth in Gibson's "Top 50 Guitarists of All Time". He was also named number five in Time magazine's list of "The 10 Best Electric Guitar Players" in 2009.
Cream was a British rock band formed in London in 1966. The group consisted of bassist Jack Bruce, guitarist Eric Clapton, and drummer Ginger Baker. All three members sang lead and backing vocals. The group's third album, Wheels of Fire (1968), is the world's first platinum-selling double album. Formed from members of previously successful bands, they are widely regarded as the world's first supergroup. In their career, they sold more than 15 million records worldwide. Their music spanned many genres of rock music, including blues rock, psychedelic rock, and hard rock.
Johnnie Clyde Johnson was an American pianist who played jazz, blues and rock and roll. His work with Chuck Berry led to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for breaking racial barriers in the military, as he was a Montford Point Marine - where the African-American unit endured racism and inspired social change while integrating the previously all-white Marine Corps during World War II.
George "Buddy" Guy is an American blues guitarist and singer. He is an exponent of Chicago blues and has influenced eminent guitarists including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck, Gary Clark Jr. and John Mayer. In the 1960s, Guy played with Muddy Waters as a house guitarist at Chess Records and began a musical partnership with the harmonica player Junior Wells.
Steven Lee Cropper, also known as "Steve "The Colonel" Cropper", is an American guitarist, songwriter and record producer. He is the guitarist of the Stax Records house band, Booker T. & the M.G.'s, which backed artists such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas and Johnnie Taylor. He also acted as the producer of many of these records. He was later a member of the Blues Brothers band. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him 39th on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.
Donald "Duck" Dunn was an American bass guitarist, session musician, record producer, and songwriter. Dunn was notable for his 1960s recordings with Booker T. & the M.G.'s and as a session bassist for Stax Records. At Stax, Dunn played on thousands of records, including hits by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, Elvis Presley and many others. In 1992, he was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Booker T. & the M.G.'s. He is ranked number 40 on Bass Player magazine's list of "The 100 Greatest Bass Players of All Time".
Robert William Cray is an American blues guitarist and singer. He has led his own band and won five Grammy Awards.
"Sunshine of Your Love" is a 1967 song by the British rock band Cream. With elements of hard rock, psychedelia, and pop, it is one of Cream's best known and most popular songs. Cream bassist and vocalist Jack Bruce based it on a distinctive bass riff, he developed after attending a Jimi Hendrix concert. Guitarist Eric Clapton and lyricist Pete Brown later contributed to the song. Recording engineer Tom Dowd suggested the rhythm arrangement in which drummer Ginger Baker plays a distinctive tom-tom drum rhythm, although Baker has claimed it was his idea.
Samuel David Moore is an American vocalist who was a member of the soul and R&B group Sam & Dave from 1961 to 1981. He is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
"Cross Road Blues" is a blues song written and recorded by American blues artist Robert Johnson in 1936. Johnson performed it as a solo piece with his vocal and acoustic slide guitar in the Delta blues-style. The song has become part of the Robert Johnson mythology as referring to the place where he supposedly sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his musical talents, although the lyrics do not contain any specific references.
"Spoonful" is a blues song written by Willie Dixon and first recorded in 1960 by Howlin' Wolf. Called "a stark and haunting work", it is one of Dixon's best known and most interpreted songs. Etta James and Harvey Fuqua had a pop and R&B record chart hit with their duet cover of "Spoonful" in 1961, and it was popularized in the late 1960s by the British rock group Cream.
"Hide Away" or "Hideaway" is a blues guitar instrumental that has become "a standard for countless blues and rock musicians performing today". First recorded in 1960 by Freddie King, the song became an R&B and pop chart hit. Since then, it has been interpreted and recorded by numerous blues and other musicians and has been recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame.
"As the Years Go Passing By" is a song penned by Peppermint Harris for Fenton Robinson, who first recorded it in 1959 on Duke Records, Duke #312. Flamboyant pianist James Booker also played on the session. It is credited to have been written by 'Deadric Malone', owner of Duke, which was a customary practice for some producers and label owners at that time. It was originally titled "As the Years Go By"
"Driftin' Blues" or "Drifting Blues" is a blues standard, recorded by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers in 1945. The song is a slow blues and features Charles Brown's smooth, soulful vocals and piano. It was one of the biggest blues hits of the 1940s and "helped define the burgeoning postwar West Coast blues style". "Driftin' Blues" has been interpreted and recorded by numerous artists in various styles. The Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have acknowledged the influence and lasting popularity of the song.
"Strange Brew" is a song by the British rock band Cream. First released as a single in June 1967 in the UK and US, it was later added to their second studio album Disraeli Gears. The song features Eric Clapton on lead vocals rather than the usual lead by Jack Bruce. The single peaked at number 17 on the UK Singles Chart in July of that same year. In the UK, it was the last Cream single to be released by Reaction Records.
"Crosscut Saw", or "Cross Cut Saw Blues" as it was first called, is a dirty blues song "that must have belonged to the general repertoire of the Delta blues". The song was first released in 1941 by Mississippi bluesman Tommy McClennan and has since been interpreted by many blues artists. "Crosscut Saw" became an early R&B chart hit for Albert King, "who made it one of the necessary pieces of modern blues".
"The Hunter" is a blues song first recorded by Albert King in 1967 for his landmark album Born Under a Bad Sign. It was written by Stax Records' house band, Booker T. and the MGs, and Carl Wells. Along with "Born Under a Bad Sign" and "Crosscut Saw", "The Hunter" is one of King's best-known and most recorded songs. In 1969, Ike and Tina Turner had hit with the tune in the R&B and Hot 100 singles charts.