Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Sweet Home Chicago" - Various Artists (including President Obama singing)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents information about the Blues standard "Sweet Home Chicago" and showcases YouTube examples of that song. The lyrics to one version of "Sweet Home Chicago" is also provided in this post.

The content of this post is presented for historical, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Example #1: Sweet Home Chicago

irayoswahili, Uploaded on Oct 18, 2007

Example #2: Buddy Guy - Sweet Home Chicago

gaukur, Uploaded on Jun 11, 2006
Sweet Home Chicago live in Houston, Texas

Example #3: Robert Lockwood, Jr. - Sweet Home Chicago

blueshoeproject, Uploaded Sep 6, 2006
91 Year Old Blues Legend and N.E.A. Recipient Robert Lockwood, Jr. plays live on stage at the Palace Theatre in Grapevine, Texas

More on the web at

Example #4 "Sweet Home Chicago" (Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin & Jimmie Vaughan)

Mofromusic, Uploaded on Feb 4, 2011

"Sweet Home Chicago" is a popular blues standard in the twelve bar form. It was first recorded and is credited to have been written by Robert Johnson. Over the years the song has become one of the most popular anthems for the city of Chicago despite ambiguity in Johnson's original lyrics.

Example #5: Sweet Home Chicago - The White House All Stars

ListitudeMusic, Published on Dec 21, 2012

Very cool - an incredible line-up at the Red, White and Blues event hosted by President Barack Obama. On stage were Mick Jagger, Buddy Guy, BB King, Jeff Beck, Keb Mo and others in a celebration at the White House of blues history. Jagger coaxed Obama to sing a few lines of "Sweet Home Chicago", giving up his microphone to the President. To the surprise of some, and enjoyment of all, Obama belted out a few lines. Also present was Michelle Obama, who seemed to be enjoying her husband's show.
President Obama thanks the artists at 2:50 & the music starts shortly thereafter.

President Obama thanks the performers and then at B.B. King's & Buddy Guy's requests begins singing [at 9:41]. This was at the “In Performance at the White House: Red, White & Blues” event, February 21, 2012.

Chicago, Illinois is United States President Barack Obama’s adopted hometown.

Artists: Buddy Guy, B. B. King, Mick Jagger, Derek Truck, Suzan Tedeschi, Keb Mo, Jeff Beck, Trombone Shorty Gary Clark, Jr., Shemekia Copeland, and Warren Haynes

The list of the full set is at

"Sweet Home Chicago" by Robert Johnson
recording of 1st of 5 sessions, November 23 1936, San Antonio, Texas
from The Complete Recordings (CBS 467246 2 & Columbia/Legacy C2K-46222 & Columbia 4622 & Sony 64916), copyright notice

Ooh, baby don't you want to go?
Ooh, baby don't you want to go?
Back to the land of California1, to my sweet home Chicago

Ooh, baby don't you want to go?
Ooh, baby don't you want to go?
Back to the land of California1, to my sweet home Chicago

Now one and one is two, two and two is four
I'm heavy loaded baby, I'm booked, I gotta go
Cryin' baby, honey don't you want to go?
Back to the land of California1, to my sweet home Chicago

Now two and two is four, four and two is six
You gonna keep monkey'in 'round here friend-boy2,
you gonna get your business all in a trick
But I'm cryin' baby, honey don't you wanna go
Back to the land of California1, to my sweet home Chicago

Now six and two is eight, eight and two is ten
Friend-boy, she trick you one time, she sure gonna do it again
But I'm cryin' hey, baby don't you want to go
To the land of California1, to my sweet home Chicago

I'm goin' to California, from there to Des Moines, Iowa'y3
Somebody will tell me that you, need my help someday,
cryin', hey hey, baby don't you want to go
Back to the land of California1, to my sweet home Chicago

Note: a or the source for this song is probably Kokomo Arnold's popular song "Old Original Kokomo Blues", recorded in 1934;
Note 1: confusing California for Illinois suggests that Robert Johnson had not been yet to Chicago prior to the recording of this song. Another explanation is offered by Patrick Clark: "I do believe that he was simply using the phrase "the land of California" as an alternative way of stating "that place of great riches". California as a metaphor for the land of milk and honey, it is a possibility. Thanks to Patrick for this contribution;
Note 2: friend-boy is a dialectic synonym for "boyfriend" when used between men;
Note 3: "from there to Des Moines, Iowa-y" is best-guess work based on the phonetics…

"The melody was previously used in a number of recorded blues songs, including "Honey Dripper Blues", "Red Cross Blues" and the immediate model for the song: "Kokomo Blues"...

In 1932, Jabo Williams recorded "Ko Ko Mo Blues," with the same refrain and included the counting line

One and two is three, four and five and six[8]

In 1933, James Arnold laid claim to the song, styling himself Kokomo Arnold and his version as "Old Original Kokomo Blues".

Now one and one is two mama, two and two is four
You mess around here pretty mama, you know we got to go

Cryin O, baby don't you want to go
Back to the eleven light city, to sweet old Kokomo[9]

...Kokomo was a city of little significance to a Southern audience. Papa Charlie McCoy changed the reference to the better known Baltimore.[11] Robert Johnson changed the character of the song to one of aspirational migration, replacing back to Kokomo with to Chicago, and replacing that eleven light city with another migrational goal that land of California.

But I'm cryin' hey baby, Honey don't you want to go
Back to the land of California, To my sweet home Chicago

Johnson sang this as a refrain, and also as a first verse. Otherwise, his text retained the structure of Arnold's hit record, with similar counting verses"...

Click for a video of David 'Honeyboy' Edwards -singing "Sweet Home Chicago"
Click for a post about a related song.

My thanks also to all of those who contributed to the composition of "Sweet Home Chicago". Thanks also to all of the performers in these featured videos, to the transcriber of the lyrics, and to the uploaders of these featured sound file and videos.

Also, thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome

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