Call for Feature Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Rocking Chair Blues: Howlin' Wolf - "You'll be Mine"

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Mar 21, 2011
"You'll Be Mine", another Willie Dixon-penned track on Rocking Chair, is two minutes and 25 seconds of joy--with an edge.

The languid, suggestive “Red Rooster” fades to the sound of Howlin’ Wolf’s slide guitar, and what comes next is a mood-changer: the ebullient “You’ll Be Mine”. This Willie Dixon-penned rocker is two minutes and 25 seconds of joy, as Wolf pledges lifelong fidelity to his lover. The song’s structure is basic, verse-chorus with a middle eight break, and the lyrics are simplicity itself: “You so sweet / You so fine / How I wish you were mine / Honey, I’ll be your love / You’ll be mine”. Wolf’s so captivated by his darling that, as long as she’s his, it doesn’t matter what she does or doesn’t do: it’s love as total, unquestioning devotion.
  
Critic Robert Palmer wrote that the hair on the back of his neck “crackled with electricity” when he heard Wolf perform at a 1965 show. Wolf’s one of a kind voice triggers physical sensations in the listener—thrills and chills—when he’s conveying deep and dark emotion, whether anguish, rage, or terror. But when he’s feeling good, he’s just as affecting, as “You’ll Be Mine” proves. Wolf’s emotional effects, however, are never one-dimensional, and there’s more than simple, unalloyed joy in his performance. He’s also staking claim to this woman, and when he sings, “You’ll be mine”, chopping the possessive pronoun into three syllables, he gives it an edge of control-freak mania.


“You’ll Be Mine” was recorded at Chess Records in December 1961, during a session that produced another track that would end up on Rocking Chair, “Goin’ Down Slow”. Wolf is backed by Henry Gray on piano, Sam Lay on drums, Willie Dixon on bass, and Hubert Sumlin, who turns in a concise, perfectly structured single-string guitar solo. By the early ‘60s, after a period of apprenticeship and playing second guitar to the more flamboyant Willie Johnson, Sumlin had come into his own as Wolf’s lead player. Wolf, a combination of father figure and teacher to Sumlin, groomed the much younger musician to assume that role in his band. Their relationship was close, but contentious, and it occasionally erupted into violence when Wolf felt Sumlin was fucking up. But on “You’ll Be Mine” and throughout Rocking Chair, he fully justifies Wolf’s faith in him.

Related Articles
23 May 2011
In this final installment of the Between the Grooves series dedicated to Howlin’ Wolf’s Rocking Chair album, George de Stefano states that Wolf's music is so compelling because it seems such a direct, unmediated expression of his singular personality.
16 May 2011
“Howlin’ for My Baby” is the most joyful number on Rocking Chair: Its exuberance and humor are irresistible.
9 May 2011
On "Back Door Man", Howlin' Wolf offers the alluring promise of illicit midnight pleasure.
2 May 2011
Sexual poaching and its consequences become a life and death drama in Howlin’ Wolf’s “Down in the Bottom”.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.