One Song/Three Versions – In My Time of Dying

Wikipedia: “In My Time of Dying” (also called “Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed” or a variation thereof) is a traditional gospel music song that has been recorded by numerous musicians. The title line, closing each stanza of the song, refers to a deathbed and was inspired by a passage in the Bible from Psalms 41:3 “The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing, thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.””

Gospel blues singer Blind Willie Johnson’s version, called “Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed,” is the first one I could find. But the lyrics to his version are almost completely different than what modern artists have covered. Near as I can tell, everybody’s been going back to the version by blues man Josh White.

As likely as not, it is Bob Dylan’s version that many contemporary artists are more familiar with. Dylan would have known of White as he was a member (with Woody Guthrie) of a folk and social protest group called The Almanac Singers who were active in the early 1940’s. Dylan recorded it on his eponymous debut album from 1962:

In the time of dyin’
I don’t want nobody to moan
All I want my friends to do
Come and fold my dyin’ arms

Well, well, well
So I can die easy
Jesus gonna make up my dyin’ bed

Samantha Fish is a blues singer/songwriter/guitarist from Kansas City, Missouri. She won Best New Artist Debut, Blues Music Awards in Memphis in 2012.

Stevie Ray Vaughan was a big influence on her (and pretty much everybody who has played blues since.) Called on stage to play with Buddy Guy, he said, “When this kind of shit happens, I’ll play all night!” She released a new album last month called Chills & Fever which I’m itching to listen to.

Here’s her version of “Dying Bed,” funky-looking guitar and all:

If by now you’re saying to yourself, Wait a minute. Where else have I heard this song? Didn’t Zep do it? Yes, indeedy. They recorded it originally for their 1975 album, Physical Graffiti.

They took this old blues song, jacked it up, ran it through the old Zep-o-meter 3000 and came out with their own trademark brand of crunch n’ roll. Unfortunately as is their custom, when they re-arrange a song they put their names on it as if they wrote it.

This version is in open G tuning if you’re playing along at home. Right about 3:45 it starts to kick ass like a motherfucker:

28 thoughts on “One Song/Three Versions – In My Time of Dying

  1. Great Song! Also recorded by Charley Patton (1929), John Sebastian (1971), John Fahey (1971), Shocking Blue (1973), John Mellencamp (1997), David Gogo (1999), Martin Gore (2003) – We are dying I feel it every day!

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  2. Yeah, the first one I found by her was her playing in a very short skirt. I kinda wanted guys to pay attention to her playing, not her legs so I went with this one.

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  3. I’m having a problem locating spare parts for my Zep-o-meter 3000, I’m missing the Pageometer, and it’s just sitting in the garage rusting now.

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  4. The Zep-o-meter is a handy thing. It’ll handle anything. I ran ‘Ave Maria’ through it and boy, it rocked! 😀

    Saw your latest Bruce post. Need to go back and listen to the album all the way through before commenting. Not that I don’t know it. Just want to have the songs fresh in my mind.

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  5. Just listened to the Josh white version a while ago. Sam is just real good. Like we said “people are still carrying the torch”. She’s been bit by some real good music. Inspiring. Through the Zep-o-meter is right. Never get tired of that one. Another hat trick!

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  6. Everybody digs Sam. I need to give her album a spin. As I mentioned on another site, I have some listening to do. Hope to plow through a couple albums this weekend. Thanks for the reminder. As to hat track, you Canucks see everything as a hockey game. 😀

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  7. Boston has been home to a lot of those north of the border hockey guys. The Tragically Hip have a great line in one of their songs about Bobby Orr. You’re right, there I go with the hockey thing again. I’m going to keep an ear and eye out for Sam. Being that good she will pop up with people we like.

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  8. “One Song/Three Versions” is a fun feature! I always find it pretty cool when different music artists cover songs I like, especially when they make them their own. Three humble suggestions I thought you might like in this context:

    1. With a Little Help From My Friends
    First recording: The Beatles – of course! Best clip I could find is together with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lYudapfHlw
    Cover 1: Joe Cocker – I think one of the best remakes in rock of all time! Clip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpXHLiuPChc
    Cover 2: Sergio Mendes – just found it; puts a Brazilian jazz groove on the tune! Clip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hApnXp7RSwE

    2. Love Hurts
    First recording: The Everly Brothers – clip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFE2SnliiV0
    Cover 1: Nazareth – would also put this in my list of greatest remakes. Clip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soDZBW-1P04
    Cover 2: Jim Capaldi – clip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzvDhkBnC_8

    3. Under the Boardwalk
    First recording: The Drifters – clip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPEqRMVnZNU
    Cover 1: The Stones – probably the best known cover. Clip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELMV1Q9zB4A
    Cover 2: John Mellencamp – killer version from “Rough Harvest” (1999). Clip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjSqXaVkCQs

    I could probably come up with many more but thought three would be good for now – after all, it’s not even my blog! 🙂

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    1. Good choices. Know most of ”em. Some thoughts:

      -I’ve always liked Sergio Mendes. I have Brazilian music as a Pandora channel. Always enjoy a good samba or bossa nova.

      -Funny you should mention ‘Love Hurts.’ For years I assumed the Nazareth version was the original. I just happened to be reading something about Roy Orbison not too long ago and it turns out it was one of his B sides. As to Capaldi, I had no idea he’d covered it. Kind of a lilting version. Of these three, I’d go with Everly but overall, probably Roy’s. He’s got that ‘hurt’ thing in his voice.

      -Hard to screw up ‘Boardwalk.’ Such a great tune. Drifters do it best for me on this one. Arguably the most romantic version.

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        1. Three or four-octave range they say. Much beloved of other performers. Every once in a while they air the “Black and White Night” tribute to him. On YouTube as well, at least some of it.

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  9. Cracking review of a cracking song. I’m afraid the Led Zeppelin version remains my favourite though. Still remember the first time I played Physical Graffiti (two days after release) and feeling the spine tingle and the tears well to Jimmy Page’s opening bars. However, I’ve mellowed since then and tastes have broadened. Check out (for example) The ‘Miraculous Mule’ version!

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    1. I’m partial to the Zep version myself. But fundamentally it’s a good song and one would have to be a blues neophyte to screw it up. Fish’s version is nice. Dylan reminded me of it.

      i have alas been unable to find a version by Miraculous Mule in any of the usual on-line places.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Jim great song choice with three great versions. I listen to a blues guitarist named Justin Johnson a lot and he plays a guitar similar to the one Samantha is playing I believe it called a “Cigar Box” guitar. Here is a cool link to Red Dog Guitars that might shed some light on the subject.
    http://www.reddogguitars.com/ that is only if your interested of course.

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    1. I think that reputation is as much because Jimmy Page lived in occult guy Aleister Crowley’s house and supposedly dabbling in the black arts himself. As to that particular song, I doubt if half the people singing it really mean it in a truly Biblical sense. Dylan is Jewish!

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  11. I love this song! I don’t know about music and I don’t know why, but I’ve been attracted by this kind of music since I went to B.B.King’s live ( it was long time ago and my first live experience!).
    Now I’m looking for the cover of “Blue Moon”, which is one of my favorite songs.
    I’m lucky to hit your site!! Thank you for your wonderful feature!!

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    1. You’re quite welcome. I see you’re following my site so look forward to more fun stuff. Also, if you like other Fifties tunes like ‘Blue Moon,’ search my site for ‘Indispensable 150.’

      Liked by 1 person

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