We’ve all heard of the British Invasion, right? That period in the 1960s when America was flooded with excellent rock bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Cream, the Kinks, and others. And how that movement lasted well into the ’70s with other bands like Led Zeppelin.
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That time sure did yield some great, great, great music. But how did it come to be? What were the situations and scenarios that led to these great U.K. acts? While the music is certainly the result of talent, skill, and hard work, it is also the result of these bands listening to American blues records.
During World War II, soldiers brought records over to Europe by artists like Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Lead Belly, and others. Many of those vinyl LPs stuck around after combat in little poor towns—like Liverpool (where the Beatles are from). These albums provided the foundation for the British Invasion rock bands.
As such, we wanted to showcase a list of old blues songs that would end up providing either the inspiration, foundation, or outright material for covers of tracks now made famous by the British Invasion bands and other now-well-loved groups.
We hope you enjoy this walk down history lane. And while not all the songs on the list are directly involved with the British Invasion itself, you get the idea behind these songs’ various connections. Lastly, we want to thank KEXP DJ Eva Walker (of The Black Tones) for her help making this list.
1. Howlin Wolf “Back Door Man” / The Doors “Back Door Man”
2. Lead Belly “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” / Nirvana “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”
3. Erma Franklin “Piece of My Heart” / Janis Joplin “Piece of My Heart”
4. Sonny Boy Williams “Bring It On Home” / Led Zeppelin “Bring It On Home”
5. Irma Thomas “Time is on My Side” / The Rolling Stones “Time is on My Side”
6. Muddy Waters “Rollin and Tumblin” / Hornet Leg “Rollin and Tumblin”
7. Memphis Minnie “When the Levee Breaks” / Led Zeppelin “When the Levee Breaks”
8. John Lee Hooker “Boom Boom” / The Animals “Boom Boom”
9. Lead Belly “Black Betty” / Ram Jam “Black Betty”
10. Cream “Crossroads” / Robert Johnson “Crossroads”
Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage