Devil Got My Woman
By: Skip James

Original Performance: Skip James
Written by: Skip James

Versions:
  1. Devil Got My Woman (4:32)
    Available on Odelay and 2 other releases.
    Credits
    Mark Wilkins: Engineer
    Beck Hansen: Producer
 
Lyrics:
Devil Got My Woman [Version (a)]:

Must have been the devil, believe that woman has gone mad
Must have been the devil, believe that woman has gone mad

Nothin' but the devil change my baby's mind
Nothin' but the devil change my baby's mind

Laid there last night, laid there last night, tried to take my rest
My mind got to ramblin' like wild geese from the west

Must have been the devil, believe that woman has gone mad
Must have been the devil, believe that woman has gone mad

Woman I love, woman I love took off with my best friend
Woman I love took off with my best friend
 
The Song:

Within weeks of the release of Mellow Gold on March 1 1994, Beck was off on tour around the world. Before the tour began heading through America's south, he stopped for a visit at the most famous studio in America, Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. While there, he recorded a number of blues tunes and jams. So far, only two songs have been released from his visit: "Devil Got My Woman" and "Stagolee." The former was not released until the "Jack-ass" single in 1997, while the latter did not get released until four years after that that. This of course naturally leads one to wonder, just how many more blues classics did Beck record that day? And when will we get to hear them all?

Regardless, "Devil Got My Woman" is a classic blues song, to put it lightly. Legendary, even. It was the second Skip James cover Beck has recorded (the first being "He's A Mighty Good Leader") (he's since done more also).

Beck's version was pretty faithful to Skip's lyrically, as shown here:
Oh Lord, it be the devil believe that woman mad
Oh Lord, it be the devil believe that woman mad
Oh nothin' but the devil change my baby's mind
Oh nothin' but the devil change my baby's mind
I laid there last night, laid there last night, I laid there last night, tried to take my rest
My mind got to ramblin' like the wild geese from the west, from the west
The woman I love, woman that I love, the woman I love took off for my best friend
But he got lucky, joker got her back again
And he got lucky, stole her back again
This is Skip James' original version of the song, from 1931. He would later be "rediscovered" in the '60s, and the song was recorded (and released) again.

Even at this early point in his career, you can tell that this is the kind of song Beck had been performing for a long time. The guitar has that full, ringing, loosely-tuned sound to it, which helps set the 1930s blues atmosphere. The guitar line is of similar pace and rhythm as Skip James' 1931 recording, and both display a lot of fancy picking going on, but Beck's is not a pure copy. To top it off, Beck's voice is powerful and dramatic. His admiration for this music really shows, and this is easily one of Beck's finest moments.
 
Live:

Played live 21 times:
Earliest known live version: December 5, 1994
Latest known live version: August 21, 2003

The earliest live versions seem to have occured in late 1994. On December 10, Beck says how he went to Sun Studios and recorded a few Skip James covers (among other things).

Beck performed the song during one of his yearly stops at KCRW on January 6 1995. Once again, it was a brilliant display of Beck's guitar skills. This performance was a bit rawer in feel than the Sun Studio recording, but that fit the material all the more. Unfortunately, KCRW messed up and clipped the beginning of his performance. But a gracious Beck admitted, "That's OK. I clipped the whole thing."

Beck performed "Devil Got My Woman" again on July 2 2000, at the This Ain't No Picnic Festival. Smokey Hormel rejoined the band that night, and this song is done as one of their always-memorable acoustic duets. Smokey adds some bluesy slide guitar. Beck also plays some harmonica at the beginning. He sings some slightly "new" lyrics:
Laid there last night, tried to dig my grave
My mind got to ramblin' like wild geese from the west

Woman I love, woman I love, the devil changed her mind
I love her, Lord I think she's always mine
Beck once again returned to Skip James' most famous song a few times on his August tour. Smokey Hormel added slide guitar for the full-on blues effect. A few times it was preceded with Beck's story about how he discovered the blues as a teenager in the '80s, from beer commercials.

"Devil Got My Woman" was fairly regularly included on the short Europe tour in April 2003.
 
original version