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Well, I suppose we can’t very well complain, can we?

After all, as much as we liked Jimmy Liggins personally and raved about his best sides, enthusiastically complimented the original version of his stellar band, The Drops Of Joy, and praised his eye for detail in many of his self-penned songs, we did find fault with his tendency to use the same musical framework over and over and over again.

Once or twice was fine, but after a dozen times it became a little repetitive.

So we should be glad that he doesn’t copy himself with this one, even if instead he blatantly swipes the music of a much admired female rival.

At least with a title like this he wasn’t ducking responsibility for his actions.


Before I Get Too Old
As with all of our earliest heroes in rock ‘n’ roll whose names were everywhere on the release rolls back when there were a lot fewer artists who were around to take credit – or blame – for this unruly music’s brash assault on the senses, Jimmy Liggins eventually got pushed to the side.

A lot of this wasn’t his fault. Not only was he missing in action for a year thanks to an act of violence at one of his concerts which left him convalescing for months after being shot in the mouth, but then he also had to face the harsh reality that his somewhat rudimentary style of rock was being increasingly overshadowed by the more complex musical experiments and a greater variety of styles now sharing space under the ever-expanding rock banner.

Throw in the sheer number of rock artists who are releasing records on far more record labels over the past year or two, it’s easy to see why Liggins might get lost in the shuffle.

So now that he’s not even the biggest star on Specialty Records (that would undoubtedly be Percy Mayfield, who sang a far different kind of rock than Liggins was capable of), you can’t exactly blame Jimmy for trying to revive his fortunes by turning elsewhere for “inspiration”.

Yeah, I suppose that’s what we’ll politely call him copying Ruth Brown’s Terardrops From My Eyes for his latest excursion.

Heck, Wynonie Harris had covered it outright when nobody was calling for it, so while Liggins taking writing credit for the melodic work of Rudy Toombs is hardly honorable, at least Jimmy did come up with a new title, Stolen Love, plus an entirely new story with some fairly arresting lyrics for his efforts.

On second thought, maybe the word “arresting” cuts a little too close to the bone for comfort here.


My Love Was All I Owned
It’s a testament to Rudolph Toombs’ abilities that no matter how many times we hear it and no matter what they’re singing over his tune, that this melody is so damn irresistible regardless of who is performing it.

With its rolling rhythm that effortlessly rises, turns over and recedes like an endless supply of waves along the shore, it’s hard to resist the undertow it creates when carried out by a capable band.

Surely any unit led by Maxwell Davis qualifies as capable, though he’s not content to heist Toombs’s work as he goes one step further and picks the pocket of ANOTHER famous chart-topping song in the intro, that of 1945’s huge smash The Honeydripper. But at least that’s one that might be excused by its creator, namely Jimmy’s older brother Joe Liggins who was now also employed by Specialty, so I suppose “what stays in the family” applies here.

Once the song transitions to the “Teardrops” template Davis wisely shifts the emphasis from horns to piano to avoid the more indefensible plagiarism charges, then delivers a cruder sax solo (actually one of his least smooth efforts in his storied career, yet it still gets the job done) which further removes it from the source.

Even so it’s not hard to see where Stolen Love was… umm…, well “stolen” from as Liggins had been using the same vocal cadences for so long that any deviation from that well-worn model becomes glaringly obvious.

Now it should be said that he could even be charged with pilfering the title from The Larks who took their song by this name outright from Eddy Howard, but you can’t copyright titles so Liggins is safe in that regard.

Besides his lyrics tell an altogether different story from both The Larks and Ruth Brown, and as usual with him it’s pretty good. The plot is simple as can be and the opening lines to every stanza go beyond simple until they border on simplistic, yet he closes each of them out with a pained revelation or insightful discourse on being spurned by a girl with his nasal voice adding to, rather than hindering, the accessibility of the song.

To take it one step further, the marriage of the sad-sack lyrics with a catchy melody never ceases to work. That push-pull contrast is addicting, letting your heart soar with the music even as it sinks with the tale he’s spinning detailing the character’s despair.

Naturally this isn’t going to rival Brown’s classic, originality does count for a lot after all, and Ruth could out-sing Jimmy any day of the week and twice on Sundays. With Davis “dumbing down” the band to give it a different feel the Atlantic sessionists have a clear leg up on this version as well. But damn, even as we acknowledge the theft, we admire the brazenness of the criminal and have no trouble looking the other way as he scampers down the road, bandit mask over his eyes and a bagful of hot merchandise held tight in his grasp.


You Took It And Now You’re Gone
For an artist like Jimmy Liggins who was near ground zero when rock first exploded and scored some groundbreaking hits along the way, songs like this – even putting aside its questionable ethics – which fell upon deaf ears at the time are not going to be highly thought of by most.

If you were to make due with a half dozen tracks of Liggins to explain his role in rock’s evolution you surely wouldn’t pick one that he had very little to do with creatively, otherwise you aren’t showing HIS importance, but rather the importance of other unaffiliated artists.

Even Davis’s usually stellar contributions that are worthy of being highlighted in any presentation involving his work would be undersold by this choice, since it’s more of what he took away than what he added to Stolen Love that he can claim responsibility for.

But while I’d never point to this as one of Liggins’ most important singles, nor even his most artistically representative tracks, it is certainly among the more enjoyable efforts we’ve encountered.

Maybe the amount of credit he’s due for it is somewhat slight, but it’s still his voice singing his words in his inimitable way that fills our ears and while we do steadfastly champion the originators in any creative endeavor, when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll the thieves in the temple have their place in the story as well.


(Visit the Artist page of Jimmy Liggins for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)