Cream – Born Under A Bad Sign

When I first started to listen to Cream, what stood out was not Clapton’s guitar or Baker’s drumming…no it was Jack Bruce’s bass. There are three bass players I listened to while starting out playing. John Entwistle, Jack Bruce, and Paul McCartney.  Those three covered the chaotic, the sliding, and melodic. Jack Bruce had all of these traits.

Cream recorded this and released it on their 1968 album Wheels Of Fire. It was written by Booker T Jones and William Bell for Albert King. King released it on his first Stax album Born Under A Bad Sign in 1967. Clapton stuck close to King’s guitar style on this song.

The Wheels of Fire album peaked at #1 in the Billboard Album Charts, #1 in Canada, and #3 in the UK in 1968.

Cream played this when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 12, 1993, in tribute to Albert King, who died the previous year. It was one of two times the band has played together since they broke up in 1968. The first time was at Clapton’s wedding in 1979…three Beatles also played together at his wedding.

Booker T Jones: “My recollection is that we wrote it in my den, late the night before the session. We had been trying to come up with something for Albert. He was coming to town and it was the last opportunity we had to write a song. But you know, now that I think of it, the fact that the song was in D flat, there is definitely an Indiana influence because, you know, a blues song in d flat? I tell you, I learned the value of flat keys and sharp keys and how to use them for emotional value so I could have more range and capacity for touching the human heart. I think that was one of the reasons that song became as huge as it did. Because it was in D flat.”

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”

From Songfacts

When Albert King signed with Stax Records in Memphis, Booker T. Jones, who was a member of the Stax house band Booker T. & The MGs, was assigned his producer. In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR), Jones explained: “At that time, my writing partner was William Bell. He came over to my house the night before the session. William wrote the words and I wrote the music in my den that night. That was one of my greatest moments in the studio as far as being thrilled with a piece of music. The feeling of it, it’s the real blues done by the real people. It was Albert King from East St. Louis, the left-handed guitar player who was just one of a kind and so electric and so intense and so serious about his music. He just lost himself in the music. He’s such a one of a kind character. I was there in the middle of it and it was exhilarating.”

The “bad sign” is an astrology reference: if you’re “born under a bad sign,” it means the stars are aligned against you from birth. It was the song’s co-writer William Bell who came up with the title – he wanted to do a blues song about astrology.

Born Under A Bad Sign was Albert King’s first album released by Stax. It became King’s signature song, with the classic lyrics, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”

The song harkens back to blues of the ’30s and ’40s which had similar lyrical content.

King was an American blues musician. Known for his size (6′ 4″, 250 pounds) and custom-made, left-handed Gibson guitar, he died in 1992.

 Their guitarist, Eric Clapton, idolized American blues artists and often performed their songs. It marked a change of guitar style for Clapton, who adopted a harder, attacking style on this song in place of the sweeter, sustaining notes he called “woman tone,” which were more apparent on Cream’s first two albums.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band played this at Woodstock in 1969. They went on Monday morning, two sets ahead of Jimi Hendrix.

Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles, recorded an instrumental cover in 1969 as a tribute to King. 

This song’s lyricist William Bell performed it at the Grammy Awards in 2017 with Gary Clark Jr. “When you spend your life making music, you were born under a good sign, Bell said when they finished the song.” Bell won the award for Best Americana Album.

Janis Joplin’s guitarist Sam Andrew borrowed the riff for Big Brother & The Holding Company’s song “I Need A Man To Love.”

Christian posted this video in the comments…I thought I would add it…

Born Under A Bad Sign

Born under a bad sign
Been down since I begin to crawl
If it wasn’t for bad luck
You know I wouldn’t have no luck at all

Hard luck and trouble is my only friend
I’ve been on my own ever since I was ten
Born under a bad sign
Been down since I begin to crawl
If it wasn’t for bad luck
You know I wouldn’t have no luck at all

I can’t read, haven’t learned how to write
My whole life has been one big fight
Born under a bad sign
I been down since I begin to crawl
If it wasn’t for bad luck
I say I wouldn’t have no luck at all

I ain’t no lyin’

You know if it wasn’t for bad luck
I wouldn’t have no kinda luck
If it wasn’t for real bad luck
I wouldn’t have no luck at all

You know, wine and women is all I crave
A big-legged woman is gonna carry me to my grave
Born under a bad sign
I been down since I begin to crawl
If it wasn’t for bad luck
I tell I wouldn’t have no luck at all

Yeah, my bad luck boy
Been havin’ bad luck all of my days, yes

Albert King – As The Years Go Passing By

As you probably have seen…I’ve beening listening to some blues lately…this one is great. King’s clean piercing guitar hits the spot.

When Duane Allman was helping Eric Clapton on the Derek and the Dominos album they had Layla’s main track laid out. Duane suggest a new intro…he got that intro from this song that King did and expanded on it. It’s very faint…but Duane saw something in there and made it work. That shows you how some songs influence other artists. Just a riff here or there that they build on.

This is a great song all by itself. It was written by “Deadric Malone”, a pseudonym for Don Robey. It was first recorded by Fention Fenton Robinson and released as a single in 1959.

Albert started to record in the 50s and would eventually go to Memphis to join Stax Records in the 60s. In 1967 we would relased the album Born Under A Bad Sign which contained this song. Love that cover design!

The album cover for Born Under a Bad Sign. The cover features a drawing of various objects related to superstition, including: a black cat, snake eyes, an ace of spades, and a calendar displaying the date Friday the 13th.

As The Years Go Passing By

Ah the blues
The ball and chain that is ’round every English musician’s leg
In fact every musician’s leg
Tryin’ to kick it off baby?
No no.
You’ll just never do it
And these are the blues of time
And the blues of a woman
And a man thinkin’ of her
As time goes by

There is nothin’ I can do
If you leave me here to cry
There is nothin’ I can do
If you leave me here to cry
You know my love will follow you baby
Mmm until the day I die

I’ve given you all I own;
That is one thing you cannot deny
Oh I’ve given you all I own;
Baby that is one thing you cannot deny
And my love will follow you baby
Yeah
Till the day this man dies.

I’ve got failure all around me
No matter how hard I try.
I’ve got failure
It’s all around me
No matter how hard I
Try try
You know my ghost will haunt you baby
Until the day you stop down and die
Well you better get up
Right now right now

Well
You think that you have left me behind
And that with your other man you’re safe
And you’re away from me baby but uh
One o’ these days you’re gonna break down and cry
Because there is no escape from this man
Because this man’s love is so strong
He’s gonna haunt you
You know my love will follow you
Mmm until the day I die

There is just one thing I want to tell you before I go
I’m gonna leave it
I’m gonna leave it
Leave it up to you
So long
baby bye-bye
Hey I’m gonna leave it up to you baby
So long
baby bye-bye

Well you know my love will follow you
Mmm ’til the day I die
Till the day I die
Till the day I die
Till the day I die
Till the day I die
Till the day I am dead
Till the day that they rest my head
Till the day I die
Till the day I I I I die
Till the day I die
Till the day I die
Till the day I die
Till the day that you die and I die
Till the day I die
Till the day I die
Till the day I die
Till the day I die
Till the day I die
Till the day I die
Till the day I die
Till the day I die
Till the day I die
Till the day I die

Die
Die
Die
Die