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"I Can't Quit You Baby" is a blues standard written by Willie Dixon and first recorded by Chicago blues artist Otis Rush in 1956.[1] It was Rush's first recording and became a record chart hit. The song, a slow twelve-bar blues, has been recorded by various artists, including Led Zeppelin, who included it on their debut album.

"I Can't Quit You Baby"
I Can't Quit You Baby.jpg
Single by Otis Rush
B-side"Sit Down Baby"
Released1956 (1956)
Format7-inch 45 rpm, 10-inch 78 rpm
Recordedc. July 1956
StudioBoulevard Recording, Chicago
Songwriter(s)Willie Dixon
Producer(s)Willie Dixon
Otis Rush singles chronology
"I Can't Quit You Baby"
"My Love Will Never Die" / "Violent Love"


Original songEdit

"I Can't Quit You Baby" was a vehicle for arranger/producer Dixon to launch Rush and Cobra Records, as it was the first single for both.[2] In this regard, it was a success, reaching number six on Billboard's Rhythm & Blues Records chart in 1956.[3] In his autobiography, Willie Dixon explained that "I Can't Quit You Baby" was written about a preoccupied relationship Rush was having at the time. Dixon used this statement to draw out an impassioned performance by Rush.[2]

I can't quit you, baby
But I've got to put you down for awhile
You know I can't quit you, baby
But I've got to put you down for awhile
Well, you messed up my happy home, babe
Made me mistreat my only child[2]

The song is notated in the key of A major in 12/8 time with a "slow blues" tempo.[4] Rush's original version consists of four twelve-bar vocal sections with lead guitar fills. It was Rush's first recording and took place in Chicago around July 1956.[5] Accompanying Rush on lead guitar and vocal are Big Walter Horton on harmonica, Red Holloway on tenor sax, Lafayette Leake on piano, Wayne Bennett on second guitar, Dixon on bass, and Al Duncan on drums.[5]

Otis Rush revisited "I Can't Quit You Baby" several times over the years, most notably when he recorded the song for the 1966 blues compilation Chicago|The Blues|Today! Vol. 2 on Vanguard Records (VSD 79217). This version featured an altered arrangement with an unusual turnaround (tonic chord followed by a half-step above the tonic chord) and staccato guitar fills. Most cover versions are based on Rush's Vanguard rendition.

Led Zeppelin versionsEdit

"I Can't Quit You Baby"
Song by Led Zeppelin
from the album Led Zeppelin
ReleasedJanuary 12, 1969 (1969-01-12)
RecordedOctober 1968
StudioOlympic, London
GenreBlues rock
Songwriter(s)Willie Dixon
Producer(s)Jimmy Page

English rock band Led Zeppelin recorded "I Can't Quit You Baby" for their 1969 debut album Led Zeppelin.[6] Their rendition generally follows Otis Rush's 1966 Vanguard version, but with different instrumentation and dynamics.[7] It also incorporates a break during the guitar solo where Jimmy Page plays a four-bar unaccompanied set-up before relaunching into the solo. Although biographer Keith Shadwick notes Page's fluff on the turnaround coming out of the solo, he concludes the song "ends up as one of the most successful pieces on the first album, with no flat spots and a perfectly symmetrical form, all within the classic blues tradition".[7]

Led Zeppelin regularly performed "I Can't Quit You Baby" in concert from 1968 to early 1970.[8] Two live versions from 1969 are included on the 1997 Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions. A performance of the song on January 9, 1970, at Royal Albert Hall is included on the 2003 Led Zeppelin DVD (an edited version of this performance was released on the 1982 Coda album). In 1970, the song was dropped from Led Zeppelin's typical concert lineup as they incorporated material from Led Zeppelin III into their shows, with "I Can't Quit You Baby" essentially being replaced by "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.[8] The song was rehearsed by the surviving members of Led Zeppelin for the May 14, 1988, Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Celebration, but was not performed during the event.[8]


In a contemporary review for the Coda album, Kurt Loder of Rolling Stone found the Coda version of "I Can't Quit You Baby", "tossed off a sound check [in 1970]", "perfectly captures the bluesmania of the period, complete with a classically overwrought guitar solo."[9]

Recognition and influenceEdit

Blues historian Gerard Herzhaft identifies "I Can't Quit You Baby" as a blues standard.[1] Rush's original Cobra single was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1994, which described it as "a Willie Dixon production revealing Rush as an extraordinary talent with an impassioned approach."[5] A variety of artists have recorded the song, including John Lee Hooker for the album More Real Folk Blues (1966, released in 1991); Savoy Brown Blues Band as "Can't Quit You Baby" on Purdah single 45 3503 (1966), also Blues Anytime Vol. 2 (1968);[10] John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers for Crusade (1967); Little Milton on Checker single 1212 (1969);[1] Willie Dixon from I Am the Blues (1969); Dread Zeppelin from Un-Led-Ed (1990)[11]; Gary Moore from Power of the Blues (2004); and the Rolling Stones from Blue & Lonesome (2016) with Eric Clapton on slide guitar.[12]


  1. ^ a b c Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). "I Can't Quit You Baby". Encyclopedia of the Blues. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press. p. 453. ISBN 1-55728-252-8.
  2. ^ a b c Dixon, Willie; Snowden, Don (1989). I Am the Blues. Da Capo Press. pp. 102, 106–107. ISBN 0-306-80415-8.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 301. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.
  4. ^ Hal Leonard (1995). "I Can't Quit You Baby". The Blues. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Hal Leonard. p. 100. ISBN 0-79355-259-1.
  5. ^ a b c Blues Foundation (November 10, 2016). "1994 Hall of Fame Inductees: I Can't Quit You Baby – Otis Rush (Cobra 1956)". The Blues Foundation. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  6. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Led Zeppelin [album] – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Shadwick, Keith (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Story of a Band and Their Music 1968–1980 (1st ed.). San Francisco: Backbeat Books. pp. 52–53. ISBN 0-87930-871-0.
  8. ^ a b c Lewis, Dave (2004). Led Zeppelin: The Complete Guide to Their Music (1st ed.). London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 1-84449-141-2.
  9. ^ Loder, Kurt (January 20, 1983). "Coda". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  10. ^ Jimmy Page has been identified as having a role in Savoy Brown's 1966 single, which predates his 1968 recording with Led Zeppelin. Russo, Greg (2016). Yardbirds: The Ultimate Rave-Up. Floral Park, New York: Crossfire Publications. p. 292. ISBN 978-0-9791845-7-4.
  11. ^ "Dread Zeppelin - Un-Led-Ed". Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  12. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Rolling Stones: Blue & Lonesome – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved July 27, 2017.