You’re No Good is generally attributed to Jesse Fuller. Fuller was born in 1896 in Jonesboro, Georgia. He spent the majority of his life working at a variety of blue-collar jobs. He played music on the side.
He benefited from the folk and blues revival that swept the US in the sixties. He played at both the Monterrey Jazz Festival and Newport Folk Festival. He opened for both The Animals and The Rolling Stones. His best-known song is San Francisco Blues, which was covered by Peter, Paul and Mary, Hot Tuna, and many others.
Dylan says he met Fuller in Denver, Colorado in 1959. Dylan has acknowledged his debt to Fuller in several interviews. Some researchers believe it is possible that Dylan got the idea of using a harmonica rack from Fuller.
According to Todd Harvey, author of The Formative Dylan, Fuller did not actually record You’re No Good until 18 months after Dylan had. He argues that Dylan most likely learned the song from Rambling Jack Elliot, a good friend of Dylan at the time and intimately familiar with Fuller’s work.
Elliot was also a close friend of Woody Guthrie. He was a major influence on Dylan. Many have remarked on the similarity of their singing styles. Although Elliot was never a songwriter of note, he was an excellent interpreter. All Dylan fans should have at least one of Elliot’s “best of” packages in their collection.
Apparently, he was not the greatest father. His daughter’s documentary The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack is worth checking out.
Other Dylan renditions of You’re No Good can be heard on the well-known East Orange and Minnesota Party Tape bootlegs.
LYRICS (JESSE FULLER)
Well, I don’t know why I love you like I do
Nobody in the world can get along with you.
You got the ways of a devil sleepin in a lion’s den;
I come home last night you wouldn’t even let me in.
Oh, sometimes you’re as sweet as anybody wanna agree,
When you get a crazy notion jumpin all over me
When you give me the blues, I guess you’re satisfied,
When you give me the blues I wanna lay down and die.
I helped you when you had no shoes on your feet, pretty momma,
I helped you when you had no food to eat.
Youre a kinda woman I just don’t understand
Youre takin all my money, give it to another man.
Well, youre that kind of woman makes a man lose his brains,
Youre that kind of woman drives a man insane.
You give me the blues, I guess you’re satisfied,
You give me the blues, I wanna lay down and die
Well, you give me the blues, I wanna lay down and die.
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