I Can't Quit You Baby

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'I Can't Quit You Baby' is a slow 12-bar blues written by Willie Dixon and first recorded by Otis Rush in 1956, and covered by many artists since. It was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1994.[1]


Wanting more artistic control and better pay, Willie Dixon left Chess Records for Eli Toscano's new Cobra Records, a Chicago, Illinois based rival label, in 1956.[2] Toscano started the label in August of that year in the West Side, to record and promote the emerging harder electric blues sounds of up and coming artists, dubbed the 'West Side' sound. Written and produced by Dixon, 'I Can't Quit You Baby', was his first product for Cobra and was a debut commercial success for artist Otis Rush, reaching Number 6 on the Billboard R&B singles chart. An adagio 12-bar blues, it broke in Chicago and then Nashville radio, before becoming a hit on influential radio station WLAC in the deep south.[3]

In Willie Dixon's biography I Am the Blues, he explains that the song was written about a relationship that Otis was in at the time. Dixon drew from Rush's personal experience and captured an emotional performance.[4] Rush's version of the song on 1966's Chicago, the Blues, Today! (Vanguard 79217) was a little different than the original, featuring a staccato guitar and new turnaround of a tonic chord followed by a half-step above the tonic chord. However it ended up being the most covered version. This composition by Willie Dixon was the only real commercial success for Otis Rush. Another notable version is John Mayall's Bluesbreakers cover on the 1967 album Crusade.[5] The Savoy Brown Blues Band also recorded this song as a B-side to 'I Tried' in August 1966, with Jimmy Page sessioning on guitar.

Led Zeppelin version

The most well known cover of Dixon's composition is Led Zeppelin's recording. The song has appeared on both their 1969 eponymous debut album Led Zeppelin as the penultimate song, as well as the 1982 release Coda, albeit in a live context. This live version was recorded on 9 January 1970 at Royal Albert Hall and was included in the 2003 Led Zeppelin DVD.

The band consistently performed 'I Can't Quit You Baby' live at Led Zeppelin concerts from 1968 to early 1970.[6] In 1970, the song was discontinued from Led Zeppelin's typical concert set list as they infused material from Led Zeppelin III into their performances, with 'I Can't Quit You Baby' essentially being supplanted by the song 'Since I've Been Loving You'. It was however revived as part of the 'Whole Lotta Love' medley during some Led Zeppelin concerts in 1972 and 1973, as can be heard on How the West Was Won.[7]

This song was rehearsed by the surviving members of Led Zeppelin for the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary reunion in May 1988, but it was not included on the night.[8]


  1. Blues Hall of Fame Inductees - Classics of Blues Recordings - Single or Album Tracks. BMI Blues Hall of Fame Inductees. Broadcast Music, Inc.. Retrieved on 7 April 2014.
  2. Palmer, Robert (1981). Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History of the Mississippi Delta. New York: Penguin Books, 266. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6. 
  3. Broven, John (2009). Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers. Urbana: University of Illinois, 124. ISBN 978-0-252-03290-5. 
  4. Dixon, Willie (1990). I Am the Blues: The Willie Dixon Story. Chicago: Perseus Books, 123. ISBN 978-0-306-80415-1. 
  5. Herzhaft, Gérard (1997). Encyclopedia of the Blues, Second. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas, 270. ISBN 978-1-55728-452-5. 
  6. Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, Revised. London: Omnibus Press, 100. ISBN 978-1-84449-659-4. 
  7. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 25. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  8. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 25. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1.