When Things Go Wrong

The song is normally attributed to Elmore James, but the earliest recording seems to be by Tampa Red (Hudson Whittaker), with him listed as the composer.  It may be that the song goes back further and should really be listed as being traditional as the melody is based on the 1928 Blues hit ‘How Long How Long Blues’ by Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell.  Several versions of ‘It Hurts Me Too’ were recorded in the 1940s and 1950s, by Stick McGhee and Big Bill Broonzy.  Bob Dylan recorded a song titled ‘It Hurt Me Too’ which was radically similar to the Elmore James song, but Dylan like many Folkies and Folk revivalists believed that every Blues song was traditional, took the song, transformed it into his own, and released it on Self-Portrait.  Elmore James died on May 24, 1963, at the age of forty-five, which was seven years before Bob Dylan’s tenth studio album Self-Portrait was released.  Eric Clapton’s twelfth solo studio album From the Cradle features the song ‘It Hurts Me Too’, which he attributed to Tampa Red.

This song was released on the Grateful Dead Europe ’72 album.  Elmore James’ lyrics are very close to what Pigpen sings, and his is clearly the version that Pigpen learnt from.  ‘It hurts Me Too’ was sung by Pigpen with the Grateful Dead from 1966 to 1972, but never revived after his death.  Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, the Grateful Dead singer, organist and harmonica player used a Hohner Blues Harp harmonica.  He took up harmonica and got pretty good at it, playing one hell of a harmonica in the days when nobody could play any of that stuff.  Pigpen was a participant in all incarnations of the Dead, beginning with the Zodiacs and then with Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions.  It was his idea to start the group known as the Warlocks which came before the Grateful Dead.  Ron McKernan died on March 8, 1973, at the age of 27 from a bleeding stomach caused by a gastrointestinal hemorrhage.

You said you was hurtin’, almost lost your mind
‘Cause the man you love hurt you all the time
But when things go wrong, wrong with you
It hurts me too

You love him a little more, when you should love him less
Why pick up behind him and take his mess
‘Cause when things go wrong, wrong with you
It hurts me too

You love another man, little girl you know I love you
But you love him and stick to him just about like glue
‘Cause when things go wrong, wrong with you
It hurts me too

Well he’d better leave you, or you’d best put him down
‘Cause you know I just can’t stand to see, see you pushed around
‘Cause when things go wrong, wrong with you
It hurts me too

Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the prompt is a song with a harmonica.

20 thoughts on “When Things Go Wrong

  1. Such a talented instrumentalist and singer to have died so soon from something that probably caused him tremendous pain. This is a great tribute, Jim! Glad there is still a recording on YouTube so you could share with everyone. And those lyrics…. “Well he’d better leave you, or you’d best put him down” So many meanings and you’d think the dude was going to be justifiably shot like a horse. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This song was most likely written by someone who had a temper that was in love with a woman, but his love was unrequited. He sees this guy hurting the woman that he loves and that hurts him. Thanks for your wonderful comment Lisa.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am not sure how I missed the Grateful Dead wave. I could never claim to be a fan, but I do appreciate talent and musicianship. I am always a sucker for lyrics – and a powerful harmonica. This has both.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It probably has a lot to do with where you live. In the town where I grew up, just about everyone listened to the Grateful Dead and we all went to their concerts together. I am happy that you like this song Maggie.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A story as old as time itself. Pigpen sings it with feeling and the harp is pretty good also. It’s good when bands keep those old tunes alive. The GD do a fair-to-middlin job on this one.

    Liked by 1 person

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