Led Zeppelin: Plagiarism? “Since I’ve Been Loving You”

“Since I’ve Been Loving You” is a slow blues number on Led Zeppelin III, which was released in 1970. The common perception of Led Zeppelin’s blues tracks is that they were plagiarized from an older African-American artist, but that is not the case with “Since I’ve Been Loving You”. On this track Robert Plant drew on the work of Moby Grape, a roots-oriented psychedelic band from San Francisco who were active in the late 1960s. Moby Grape’s song “Never”, which was on the 1968 album Grape Jam (packaged as a double-LP release with Wow), is an extended blues workout with a tempo and meter similar to “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” More importantly, “Never” features some of the same phrases and lyrical theme that Robert Plant uses in “Since I’ve Been Loving You.”

Compare the opening verse of “Never”

Working from 11:00 to 7:00 every night
Ought to make life a drag
And I know that ain’t right

to the opening verse of “Since I’ve Been Loving You”

Working from 7:00 to 11:00 every night
It really makes life a drag
I don’t think that’s right.

Also, both songs include the turn of phrase “the best of fools,” plaintive cries of “I love you, baby” and references to crying, though the lyrics are in somewhat altered form in “Since I’ve Been Love You.” This means that the opening and closing verses as well as the bridge of “Since I’ve Been Loving You” draw heavily from “Never.” In Led Zeppelin Dazed and Confused: The Stories Behind Every Song, Chris Welch acknowledges this (sort of) by stating, “Some have claimed Moby Grape’s ‘Never’ as the inspiration for the tune and certainly the band were one of Plant’s favourites.” Some? Some what, I wonder? In When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin Mick Wall goes further in stating, “It’s inconceivable the singer [Robert Plant] was not already acquainted with ‘Never’.”

Despite the obvious lifts, however, Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is far superior to Moby Grape’s track. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” has a much more varied dynamic range, more memorable hooks, and Led Zeppelin display greater musicianship than Moby Grape do in “Never,” even though the members of Moby Grape were accomplished musicians themselves. Also, Led Zeppelin adds an original refrain, “Since I’ve been loving you/I’m about to lose my worried mind” that gives the song a more satisfying structure. The phrase “my worried mind” is not entirely original, though. It had been used in several blues songs dating back to before World War II. Lucille Bogan’s 1934 recording “Sweet, Sweet Man” contains the lines “And if he don’t come back/I will lose my worried mind.”

A number of other blues songs include a reference to “my worried mind”. Notably, the phrase is in Muddy Waters’s version of the song “Trouble in Mind” which was released in 1966, and he had already used the phrase as early as 1951 in “Long Distance Call”.

A single phrase like “my worried mind” is fair game, but the lifting of several lines, not to mention the theme, from “Never” is another matter. Though uncredited on the LP, Moby Grape vocalist Bob Mosley is most likely responsible for the lyrics to “Never”. Though Robert Plant did try alter the lyrics somewhat, his haphazard attempts to be original have some rather awkward results. For example, Robert Plant doesn’t seem to have a good grasp of what it’s like to work in the wage labor force. Where Bob Mosley laments working the graveyard shift (“working from 11:00 to 7:00 every night”), Robert Plant turns the numbers around (“Working from 7:00 to 11:00 every night”). Plant is either spending pretty much every waking hour at work or else he’s complaining about working a four-hour evening shift. Also, Plant doesn’t seem to get Bob Mosley’s image of “the best of fools”. Where Mosley sings, “I’ve been to see the best of fools” Plant changes this to “I’ve really been the best, the best of fools”. Perhaps some sort of confession.

While the music of “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is original, it’s interesting to note that the opening guitar lick in this track is very similar to the one in the Yardbirds’ “New York City Blues,” which was recorded in 1965. Jimmy Page had been a member of the Yardbirds before forming Led Zeppelin, but he didn’t join the Yardbirds until 1967. The intro to “New York City Blues” was Jeff Beck’s (interesting to note that Beck also recorded a version of “Trouble in Mind”).

To keep things in perspective, though, “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “New York City Blues” share only those five notes, so this isn’t really all that significant. Bob Mosley and Moby Grape, however, should have received some sort of acknowledgment for “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” According to Perfect Sound Forever, Bob Mosley received an out-of-court settlement in 2005 but this did not result in any change to the  songwriting credits.

Never
by Moby Grape
performed by Moby Grape
Working from eleven
To seven every night
Ought to make life a drag
Now I know that ain’t right
Thinking ’bout those bad times
I wish you really knew
How happy I would be
If I were living love with you

I’ve gone a long time
At best I’m glad of that
I’ve been to see the best of fools
And I thought I had it pat
Know I love you, baby
I don’t need no one else
Come love me, baby
Hear my crying

Can’t you hear me?
Come on back, baby
Bring your love on home
I’m needing you bad
And knowing I’m sad
Bring your love
Bring it on home
‘Cause I love you
Yeah, I love you

I need you, baby
Can’t you hear me, baby?
I’m cryin’

I’m so all alone
I ain’t got nobody here
It’s so far
And it’s so deep

Since I’ve Been Loving You
by Jimmy Page/Robert Plant
performed by Led Zeppelin
Working from seven to eleven every night
It really makes life a drag
I don’t think that’s right

I’ve really been the best, the best of fools
I did what I could
‘Cause I love you, baby
how I love you, darling
how I love you, baby
How I love you, girl, little girl

But baby, since I’ve been loving you
I’m about to lose my worried mind

Everybody trying to tell me
That you didn’t mean me no good
I’ve been trying
Lord, let me tell you, let me tell you
I really did the best I could
I’ve been working from seven to eleven every night
I said it kinda makes my life a drag
Lord, that ain’t right

Since I’ve been loving you
I’m about to lose my worried mind

Said I’ve been crying
My tears they fell like rain
Don’t you hear, don’t you hear them falling?

Do you remember mama when I knocked upon your door?
I said you had the nerve to tell me
you didn’t want me no more
I open my front door
hear my back door slam
You must have one of them newfangled backdoor man

I’ve been working from seven to eleven every night
It kinda makes my life a drag
Baby, since I’ve been loving you
I’m about to lose my worried mind

12 thoughts on “Led Zeppelin: Plagiarism? “Since I’ve Been Loving You”

  1. Pingback: Zeppelin Sued for “Stairway to Heaven” | The Contrarian

  2. @Ammar i agree.. Despite the controversy, and you must admit it’s obviouls they “borrowed liberally” in several cases, but i don’t think it takes anything away from the band.

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  4. It’s pretty obvious Jimmy Page and Zeppelin pinched from all sources. The well known rip offs of killing floor for example brilliantly performed and repacked in the lemon song and Dazed and confused was actually a Yardbirds number re-written.

    I like the rest of you recognise that Led Zep are the ultimate rock group but I don’t reckon they realised how big they would become when they did these records…

    Most of these songs have been given a new lease of life that the original artists would never in a million years be able to match and you it’s like when Hendrix did “all along the watchtower” even Bob Dylan does it Hendrix style now…

    Moby Grape would never have been heard of and The Yardbirds would be an extinct species.

    I do think Led Zepp should credit the originals but not necessarily pay for copyright breach.

    Every band copies others to some extent these were just way better that’s all and we have really good records to listen to as a result.

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  6. Actually no. The Moby Grape song “Never” came out in 1968. Moby Grape nicked their song introduction from a 1966 Yardbirds track called “New York City Blues”. The Yardbirds predated Moby Grape by two years. The Moby Grape song is not the original.

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