Bass player and songwriter Willie Dixon wrote “I Just Want To Make Love To You” in 1954 during the prime of Chess Record-era Chicago blues. Muddy Waters was the first to record it, with Dixon on bass, and Little Walter on harmonica. That was just the beginning.
Waters’ version had a mellow, sultry vibe with a bass-thumping groove. A sparse recording, it was almost the perfect song to showcase Waters’ voice, Little Walters’ unmistakable harp and the steady command of Dixon’s bass.
Then came Etta James in 1961. James defined her ability to make a song entirely her own when she stepped up the pace with some R&B funk. Reworking a masterpiece made famous by Muddy Waters is not something any artist can do. But Etta James did, and it opened the door for all manner of covers.
The Rolling Stones took on the tune in a number of ways. First off in 1964, with a version similar to that of Etta James, as witnessed here on The Hollywood Palace hosted by Dean Martin. A clean-cut Brian Jones, upfront on harmonica, makes you wonder where the Stones sound might have gone had he not died so young. In 2003, the Stones set the pace back closer to the Muddy original.
The Hollywood Palace hosted by Dean Martin
And out of the British blues surge came Foghat, whose love of American blues and roots music caused the band to make “I Just Want To Make Love To You” the lead-off track on its 1972 self-titled debut album. Foghat may have given it virtually a new set of lyrics, but the song retains the name.
All manner of pop, rock, punk, funk and blues bands have released the tune in 58 or so years since Willie Dixon first came up with the perfect cliché. Even nouvelle soul goddess Adele has taken a stab and in near-perfect form.
"I Just Want to Make Love to You" is a song as timeless as the phrase that spawned it.
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