Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 320
Sat, Dec 1, 2012

“You Gotta Move [live/acoustic 1969]”
The Rolling Stones


“♫ You

I never appreciated The Rolling Stones cover of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s blues classic “You Gotta Move” until I rediscovered this acoustic cut on the live reissue of 1970’s Get Your Ya Ya’s Out. I love the stripped down, unplugged nature of this live recording. The silence between Keef’s chords and Mick’s bluesy drawl of a vocal reminds me of something Keith Richards once told Esquire when he said, “A painter’s got a canvas. The writer’s got reams of empty paper. A musician [has his own] canvas, its called silence. Where do you want to make your mark? A little dab here? And don’t forget, don’t cover the whole canvas — we don’t want a Rubens here!” Just like the best actors do their best work without words, only expressions of silence; the best musicians know when to sing, riff and when I hear this live version of “You Gotta Move” Mick and Keef play like blues specialists by letting the silence guide the spaces in between the delicacy of the notes written by Mississippi Fred McDowell.

In “You Gotta Move” Taylor’s slide guitar meld brilliantly with Keith’s acoustic licks, giving this tribute to Blues legend McDowell and honest southern feel as Taylor explained when he said, “You Gotta Move was this great Mississippi Fred McDowell song that we used to play all the time in the studio. I used a slide on “You Gotta Move” – on an old 1954 Fender Telecaster – and that was the beginning of that slide thing I tried to develop with the Stones.” “You Gotta Move” featured the slide guitar styling’s of Mick Taylor. Taylor was part of the dueling guitars could sound that Richards’ desired to sound like a bluesy symphony. The live unplugged performance brings this sweaty rendition a realistic Southern flavor.

People say, ‘Why don’t you give it up?’ I can’t retire until I croak. I don’t think they quite understand what I get out of this. I’m not doing it just for the money or for you. I’m doing it for me. I mean, it’s just something you’ve got to do. You have no choice. I mean, we had other things to do and everything, but once you got bitten by the bug, you had to find out how it’s done, and every three minutes of sound bite would be like an education. We did learn our stuff, though and, quite honestly, the blues ain’t just necessarily black. We found that out eventually.”

Keith Richards once said talking about no matter the struggle, it was his love of the blues kept him playing music as he said in his best-selling autobiography Life when he wrote “I loved music before that time but I started understanding it’s meaning to me and others more and more at that point. And then I think we realized, like any young guys, that blues are not learned in a monastery. You’ve got to go out there and get your heart broken and then come back and then you can sing the blues. Preferably several times… these guys were singing about shit. First you’ve got to get in the shit. And then maybe you can come back and sing it.”

Mick and Keith learned the blues one chord at a time but it wasn’t until they lived it, the rejection, the pain and the sweat of longing was when Jagger and Richards brought their knowledge recreating the blues on record and stage for a new generation of enthusiasts. “You Gotta Move” is the best example of how unless you lived it, you couldn’t sing it.

Keith Richards once shared advice as golden as Mississippi Fred’s when he told Esquire, “As you get older, younger people think you know where it’s at. But it’s a forlorn hope. Because everybody’s growing up at the same time, you know? Somebody who’s fifty, by the time he’s fifty-five, he’s done a whole lot more shit. That’s what I’ve realized — Jesus Christ, these people think I know what I’m doing. Okay, I’ll fool them! But at the same time, you know it’s a bluff. The important thing is what comes next, and are you ready for it?

The Rolling Stones lived the outlaw nature of McDowell’s original lyrical intent. Even though Jagger and Richards weren’t born in the American South, it was that universal emotional blues that they brought to life, the deep sounds of down home despair never sound this achingly beautiful. Are you ready? Kick back and enjoy as only The Rolling Stones could recreate with their licks on stage with this living grieving canvas called the blues.