I Coulda Had Religion

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I Coulda Had Religion

Postby RobertaSparrow » 17 Apr 2013, 12:39

I always loved Rory's song, "I Could Have Had Religion." EVERY TIME I heard him play it he always credited it to someone else, and I even heard him say in interviews that he did not write it. So, I always thought it was written by someone else or an old traditional song. It wasn't til I read in Marcus Connaughton's book that he did not write it but was inspired to write it by the poetry of those who came before him- perhaps the germ of it was, but Rory finally admitted to Bob Dylan that he was the one who wrote it. Dylan liked the song so much he wanted to record it, so he had his legal staff check into it, you know making sure all the legal "i"s dotted and 't's crossed, and he discovered that it was indeed written by Rory- it was based on either a poem or a variation on a lyric that Rory had read, and for whatever reason, Rory always attributed it to the old blues musicians that had come before him. Rory was very honest and it's true, he never took credit for what he did not write, and sometimes he wouldn't take credit for things he did write, and this particular composition, IMHO is one of his best.

Marcus Connaughton's book, Rory Gallagher, His Life and Times, pp 145-148

"Rory," he [Bob Dylan] said, "'I Could Have Had Religion' - you wrote that song?" Rory said, "Well, yeah, I did." "But you've put it down as traditional, as an old blues song, as a traditional piece of music." And Rory said, "I got a verse out of an old blues book of poetry and developed the song from there." "You actually had me fooled," Dylan said, "I thought this was one of the ghost blues songs of America and I wanted to do a version of it. In doing my research on it, I found you had written it and Rory, the reason I didn't put it on the record, I'd love to have done it, but if I had put it down I would have put it in as Bob Dylan traditional blues song and it wouldn't have been fair to you . . ."

Seems Dylan had to practically drag it out of him to claim his own work.

So my question is, if Rory was inspired to write "I Could Have Had Religion" based on poems or lyrics he had read, what song or poem would you suppose he got the inspiration from?


I've been trying to figure it out myself- Here's one that might have been a source:

Devil Got My Woman- Skip James

You know, I'd rather be the ol' devil
Well, I'd rather be the devil
Then to be that woman' man
You know, rather be the devil Than to be that woman' man
You know, I'm so sorry You know, so sorry
That I ever fell in love wit' you-ooo-hoo-oo
Because you know you don't treat me Baby, like you used ta do

You know, I laid down last night You know, I laid down last night
And I thought to take me some rest
But my mind got to rambling Like a wild geese from the west
You know the woman that I love
The woman that I love I stol't her from my best friend
But you know he done got lucky An he done got her back, again

You know, I used to cut your kindleing
You know, I used to cut your kindleing Baby, then I made you some fire
Then I would tote all your water Way, way, way, from the bogy brier

You know, my baby she don't drink whiskey
My baby, she don't drink no whiskey An I know she ain't crazy about wine
Now, it was nothin' but the ol' devil He done changed my baby's mind
You know, I could be right You know, I could be right
Then again, I could be wrong But it was nothin' but the ol' devil
He done got my baby Now he done gone


Now if you pull up the actual recording it is quite different from Rory's, but if he was inspired by the lyrics, and the Delta Blues style, maybe that was part of his inspiration? If you read the original lyrics to All Around Man, Rory practically re-wrote it but did not change its authorship (anyone else would have, but Rory would never do that). The structure of the poem is the same, and the sentiment of the lyrics are similar.

Anyone else know of a lyric or poem that might have been the inspiration?

P.S.- I still think Dylan ought to record it, BECAUSE Rory wrote it and it's such a great song.
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Re: I Coulda Had Religion

Postby eno » 17 Apr 2013, 21:19

I've seen fragments of it in some blues songs. Here's something from Muddy Waters - Rollin' & Tumblin'... "Well, I could a had a religion, this bad old thing instead
Well, I could a had a religion, this bad old thing instead
Well, all whiskey and women, would not let me pray"
"aint no use to change the way I am"
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Re: I Coulda Had Religion

Postby RobertaSparrow » 18 Apr 2013, 00:49

Rollin and Tumblin is indeed an old blues standard- it's been done by everyone and his brother. True that one line is in there, but it's just such so widely known, it couldn't be mistaken for I Could Have Had Religion-


listen to Rory Rollin & Tumblin @ 6:40

R L Burnside

Canned Heat

And Bob Dylan

I'd hate to think that every time he introduced I Could Have Had Religion he was giving his own creation away based on that-

This is so much more rich and emotive. I was checking out the lyrics to Jesus is a Dying Bed-Maker, but that doesn't really fit either.
He never sang it the same way twice-
I Couldve Had Religion
I could've had religion, I could religion
But my little girl wouldn't let me pray
I swear to the world she drove my spirit away
She drove my spirit away, she drove my spirit away

I could've had religion, I could've had religion
But my little girl wouldn''t let me pray
I tell the truth, she drove my spirit away
She drove my spirit away

I could've been, I could've been a preacher,
But I changed my mind the other nigh
The woman I have now, she would not treat me right
She would not treat me right

I've been a bad man, as bad can be
Gonna pray to the Lord above to send his blessing on me
I want some mercy, you got set my soul free
Set my soul free, Please..

I could've had, I could've had religion
But my little girl wouldn't let me pray.
Well, demon woman, you sent the devil my way,
You sent the devil my way.

Oh Lord above please send my fire,
Send your mercy right down to me.
That woman set the devil on me,
She set the devil on me,
She set the devil one me,
She set the devil on me.

Could've had religion
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Re: I Coulda Had Religion

Postby signals » 20 Apr 2013, 00:17



Junior Wells did a version, this album is from 1970 I think...track starts from 3.36 similar motif but Rory's version is more elaborate lyrically. Rory said when introducing the track at the Inter Celtic Festival in 1994 that it was a traditional that Muddy Waters had adjusted (Rollin' & Tumblin'?), then by Junior Wells and then he had adapted further.

35min30sec
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Re: I Coulda Had Religion

Postby RobertaSparrow » 20 Apr 2013, 00:38

Yes Rory always introduced it that way. The Junior Wells recording was dated as 1970- is there any recording of it prior to Rory's first performances of it?
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Re: Bob Dylan Plays Cork Tonite. Any Chance Of Rory Tribute?

Postby Sid_Sidow » 20 Jun 2014, 08:46

From what I have read over the years.....

Dylan WANTED to record 'Could Have Had Religion' because he thought Rory had recorded a Traditional Irish song.
Once he found out Rory actually wrote it but did not give himself credit, he DIDN'T WANT to record it!!!

Little more than eccentric... maybe a little (guess I can't print it here)
Thanks!! ss

"I'm the last of the Independants, the syndicate, they don't approve"
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Re: Bob Dylan Plays Cork Tonite. Any Chance Of Rory Tribute?

Postby RobertaSparrow » 20 Jun 2014, 15:40

Sid_Sidow wrote:From what I have read over the years.....

Dylan WANTED to record 'Could Have Had Religion' because he thought Rory had recorded a Traditional Irish song.
Once he found out Rory actually wrote it but did not give himself credit, he DIDN'T WANT to record it!!!

Little more than eccentric... maybe a little (guess I can't print it here)


I'd heard that too. I must admit being a little puzzled by Dylan's position there. Why would the fact that Rory actually finally 'fessed up that the song was his creation make it suddenly less attractive? I found it rather distressing to learn that, after so many years of giving credit to other, older blues guys, one of them finally did credit himself with it. I guess he figured if Rory was giving it away, why not?


Now, that is something. Buddy guy doing Rory's song :mrgreen: but . . . he doesn't credit Rory with it. And you can hear Rory's arrangement back there!! This was recorded in 1992, near as I can tell.

I'd say, if Rory had never recorded that song, Junior Wells could have never done that version. It has Rory all over it, and the lyrics as Junior Wells sings them, are virtually the same as Rory's later version of his song.

Rory attributed it to the musicians that came before him, but it was his own invention. On the one hand, I think Rory would be pleased. But then again, credit where credit is due.

But, It Was Rory's Song, One of his children, in a sense.
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Re: Bob Dylan Plays Cork Tonite. Any Chance Of Rory Tribute?

Postby capo » 20 Jun 2014, 16:52

Great find Roberta! I wonder if Rory knew these blues legends recorded one of HIS songs? I will only say that musically, the arrangement is almost identical to Jimi Hendrix's many versions of "Catfish Blues", more so than Rory's. But they use part of his lyrics, unless these were the traditional lyrics that Rory built upon. Maybe a Blues expert among us can tell us what is traditional and what is Rory's original contribution to the song. I always wondered about that.
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Re: Bob Dylan Plays Cork Tonite. Any Chance Of Rory Tribute?

Postby anniewithaj » 04 Jul 2014, 19:54

I hesitated to post on this subject because it had gone so far off track but Could've Had Religion is a traditional blues tune. Rory added verses. The following is a small portion of an interview with Donal explaining what happened.

[Bob] Dylan paid Rory a great compliment. I remember he contacted the office around 1993, looking to get a copy of `Live in Europe' because he liked the track "I Could've Had Religion" - it was for the acoustic album he was doing, `Good As I've Been To You'. So I sent him a CD copy, and I also sent him `Fresh Evidence' and said "That's what Rory was doing back in '73, here's what he's doing now." In 1994, Rory and Dylan were sharing a bill in the Montreux Jazz Festival. I asked Dylan why he didn't use the track. He said "The album was all traditional. When I got the CD of Rory's, I wondered where he got the other four verses - other than the one original that all the blues guys knew. I worked it out that Rory wrote them himself. It would have been very unfair of me to take that song, do it as a traditional and call it a Bob Dylan traditional. I couldn't live with that." Rory said "Well, you should have done it!" So he said "Maybe we'll record it together at some point." Sadly, a year later, Rory died.

http://www.rory-gallagher-tributepage.d ... lagher.htm
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Re: Bob Dylan Plays Cork Tonite. Any Chance Of Rory Tribute?

Postby RobertaSparrow » 04 Jul 2014, 20:49

Rory, 1972 . . .



I beg to differ on this one . . .

Verbatim from the Marcus Connaughton book, (1st Edition) p. 148

". . . I enquired as to why he wanted Live in Europe. Dylan was going to do a version of "I Could Have Had Religion", which is quite an honour by another writer like Dylan. "Rory," he said, 'I Could Have Had Religion' - you wrote that song?" Rory said, "Well, yeah I did." "But you've put it down as traditional, as an old blues song, as a traditional piece of music." And Rory said, "I got a verse out of a blues book of poetry and developed the song from there." "You actually had me fooled," Dylan said, "I thought this was one of the ghost blues songs of America and I wanted to do a version of it. In doing my research on it, I found you had written it and Rory, the reason I didn't put it on record, I'd love to have done it, but if I had put it down I would have put it in as a Bob Dylan traditional blues song and that wouldn't have been fair to you." His Parting words were "Why don't we get together when you are out in the States next and we'll record something?" Sadly, that was never to be.'


Now, I had heard Rory do that song way back when, and he always introduced it as a traditional blues song, even dropped a famous name or two of someone before his time who had done it or a version of it, and I always believed it. But I have looked around, and the only close approximation to that song that I have ever found, was a version recorded in the 1990s by Junior Wells:



And I have listened to it, and what I hear is the version of this song that Rory did in the 90s, although I doubt that Junior Wells credits Rory at all, and I doubt that you can find a recording of it that predates Rory's earliest recording of it.



There has been quite an effort over the decades to preserve the American cultural heritage which is the blues (see http://www.loc.gov/rr/record/nrpb/regis ... rlist.html )
and many of these really old traditional songs have been preserved. Historian and musicologist Alan Lomax did extensive research and archiving of as much of the works as he could find to preserve the history.

Rory did his homework, he was very knowledgeable about the subject, and very humble.

That this song was influenced by those that came before it I have no doubt. And there are some similar traditional blues. "Jesus is a dying-bed maker," is one, there are many others.

But if there is a recording of a song significantly like "I Could Have Had Religion" that exists before 1972 I would love to see or hear it. I can find early versions of many of Rory's favorites, such as Bullfrog Blues, I Wonder Who, Catfish Blues.

And other artists had no trouble whatsoever in taking early blues musicians' work and claiming it as their own, see Zep's catalog for starters. But not Rory.

Dylan did his due diligence, had his staff search the archives, and they traced it back to Rory.

So I tend to believe that Could Have Had Religion is 98.9999% Rory's creation, one of his children. Rory wrote that song.
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