March 20, 2008

A convoluted trail to the pain in my heart

I always love a juicy story of a misappropriated song. It’s terrible when someone else co-opts your writing and makes it their own, and it seems like back in the day there used to be more of it with less complainin’.

So I listened with great interest over on the excellent Grace Potter blog This Is Somewhere when they unearthed a forgotten tune by one Irma Thomas, a soul singer from New Orleans:

Ruler of My Heart – Irma Thomas

If you have an ounce of love in your soul for Mr. Otis Redding (as I do) then you might hear more than an echo of this:

Pain In My Heart – Otis Redding

He called it a “re-interpretation,” and to be sure, his undeniable soul-drenched stamp is all over that. But sounds to me like Irma laid down those original foundations (along with songwriter Allen Toussaint) and may be due a little more credit than just a footnote.

The reason I got started down this whole rabbit trail was because Grace Potter does a pretty smashing cover of it herself, and introduces it as being “actually written by a woman, but performed most famously by a man.”

Represent, fair Grace!

Pain In My Heart (live) – Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

And you must watch this live performance, she is ferociously rad:


  • I went to high school with her – she’s a wonderful singer.

    Andrew — March 20, 2008 @ 2:49 pm

  • Thanks for the linkage/story Heather.

    You turned me on to some great Otis stuff over a year ago so it’s a litle musical payback goodwill on my part.

    Go Otis – Go Grace!

    kcortez — March 20, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

  • I almost shot their show a week ago over in Chi.
    well actually I had the show but I didn’t know so I didnt go..

    ya forget me explaining

    Anonymous — March 20, 2008 @ 6:16 pm

  • Grace Potter covers Pain In My Heart so well it makes Otis proud.

    carrjo2 — March 20, 2008 @ 6:18 pm

  • Oh hell yeah! Thanks Heather … She sure does make it her own!

    tipiboy — March 21, 2008 @ 12:52 pm

  • That story you just told is huge. What a dick move on Otis Reading’s part. Is it too late to take legal acoin against him. Seriously…and I like Otis’ singing. This story totally changes my opinion of him. I now want to see if I can perform the song, just so I can tell the story of how Otis f-ed over Irma.

    Lebrescos — March 21, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

  • Irma Thomas is not forgotten! Have you seen the classic Jim Jarmusch film Down By Law? Then you’ll remember this scene where Roberto Benini dances with his wife…”Drip, drop/Drip, drop”…From “It’s Raining” by Irma Thomas. Look here:

    The Stones also ‘borrowed’ their version of “Time is On My Side” off her.

    She’s well worth checking out.

    Anonymous — March 24, 2008 @ 5:14 am

  • According to Wikipedia, Ruler of My Heart was written by one Naomi Neville, a pseudonym of Allen Toussaint. And according to, Pain in My Heart, originally credited to Otis Redding, was later credited to Naomi Neville, following legal proceedings.
    I also seem to remember an episode of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour in which he referred to a song called Rain in My Heart, which was an influence on Ruler of My Heart. I’ll try to check this out, as I may have imagined it

    Pat — March 27, 2008 @ 11:40 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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