'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do

"'Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness if I Do"
Single by Anna Meyers with the Original Memphis Five
B-side"That Da Da Strain"
Released1922 (1922)
RecordedNew York City, October 19, 1922
LabelPathé Actuelle
Songwriter(s)Porter Grainger, Everett Robbins

"Ain't Nobody's Business" (originally "Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness if I Do") is a 1920s blues song that became one of the first blues standards.[1] It was published in 1922 by Porter Grainger and Everett Robbins.[1] The song features a lyrical theme of freedom of choice and a vaudeville jazz–style musical arrangement.[2] It was first recorded, as "'Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness if I Do", in 1922 by Anna Meyers, backed by the Original Memphis Five.[3]

Recordings by other classic female blues singers, including Sara Martin, Alberta Hunter, and Bessie Smith soon followed.[1][3] In 1947, the song was revived by the jump blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon as "Ain't Nobody's Business".[4] It was the best-selling race record of 1949[5] and inspired numerous adaptations of the song.[1] In 2011, Witherspoon's rendition was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame as a "Classic of Blues Recording".[4]

Composition and lyrics[]

The early versions of "Ain't Nobody's Business" feature vocals with piano and sometimes horn accompaniment. They are performed as moderate-tempo blues and have an extended sixteen-bar introduction:[2]

There ain't nothin' I can do nor nothin' I can say, that folks don't criticize me
But I'm gonna do just as I want to anyway, I don't care if they all despise me

The remaining verses are eight bars in length, with the first four describing a situation, such as "If I go to church on Sunday, then cabaret on Monday", and the last four concluding with the refrain "Tain't nobody's biz-ness if I do".[2] The song's eight-bar chord scheme was a model for subsequent "bluesy" Tin Pan Alley songs and R&B ballads in an AABA form.[6]

The music and lyrics are usually cred to two pianists – Porter Grainger, who had been Bessie Smith's accompanist from 1924 to 1928, and Everett Robbins, who had his own bands and worked briefly with Mamie Smith.[1][2][3][4] Clarence Williams, who played the piano on Bessie Smith's recording, is sometimes listed as a co-author of the song.[7] BMI, the performing rights organization, lists Grainger, Williams, Witherspoon, and Graham Prince.[8] The original lyrics were copyrighted in 1922 and are now in the public domain.[9]

Recordings and releases[]

1923 record label listing "Bessie SmithClarence Wiliams at the piano"

Anna Meyers recorded "'Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness if I Do" on October 19, 1922, in New York City,[10] backed by the Original Memphis Five.[10] The song was released as a ten-inch 78-R.P.M. single on Pathé Actuelle for the US market by the French-based Pathé Records. Other early recordings include those by Billie Holiday, Sara Martin (with Fats Waller on piano),[11] Alberta Hunter,[12] and Bessie Smith.[13] The lyrics mention an abusive partner:

I'd rather my man would hit me, than to jump right up and quit me ...
I swear I won't call no copper, if I'm beat up by my papa
Tain't nobody's business if I do

In 1928, a country blues rendition was recorded by Memphis, Tennessee, singer-guitarist Frank Stokes.[1] His finger-style acoustic guitar version uses a simple I-IV-V chord progression and different lyrics, including the refrain "It ain't nobody's business but mine".

In the post–World War II blues era, the jump blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon revived the song as "Ain't Nobody's Business".[4] He performed it in the West Coast blues style with understated backing by piano, guitar, bass, drums, and a three-piece horn section.[5] The song was recorded in Los Angeles on November 15, 1947, and released by Supreme Records in September 1948.[5] It entered the record chart on March 5, 1949, and reached number one.[14] Witherspoon's song was the best-selling R&B record of 1949.[5]

Recognition and influence[]

In 2011, Witherspoon's "Ain't Nobody's Business" was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.[4] According to the Foundation, "its message continued to resonate, as borne out by the remarkable success of Witherspoon's two-part rendition, which remained on the Billboard 'race records' charts for 34 weeks. It was rated No. 3 in all-time chart longevity in Joel Whitburn's Top R&B Singles 1942–1988."[4]

Witherspoon's rendition also inspired numerous artists to record adaptations of the song.[1] Hank Williams Jr. recorded a version for his Lone Wolf album. Released as a single in 1990, it peaked at number 15 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.[15] In 1996, a version by H2O featuring Billie[16] reached number 19 on the UK Singles Chart.[17]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). "Ain't Nobody's Business". Encyclopedia of the Blues. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press. p. 436. ISBN 1-55728-252-8.
  2. ^ a b c d ""Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness if I Do"". The Blues. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Hal Leonard. 1995. pp. 210–212. ISBN 0-79355-259-1.
  3. ^ a b c Kostelanetz, Richard (2005). The B.B. King Reader: Six Decades of Commentary. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Hal Leonard. p. 288. ISBN 978-0-634-09927-4.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Blues Foundation (November 10, 2016). "2011 Hall of Fame Inductees: Ain't Nobody's Business – Jimmy Witherspoon (Supreme, 1947)". The Blues Foundation. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d Vera, Billy (1992). Blues Masters – Volume 1: Urban Blues (CD compilation notes). Various Artists. Santa Monica, California: Rhino Records. p. 3. R2 71121.
  6. ^ Appen, Ralf von; Frei-Hauenschild, Markus (2015)."AABA, Refrain, Chorus, Bridge, Prechorus — Song Forms and their Historical Development". In: Samples. Online Publikationen der Gesellschaft für Popularmusikforschung/German Society for Popular Music Studies e.V. Vol. 13. Ralf von Appen, André Doehring and Thomas Phleps, eds. pp. 32–33.
  7. ^ Ackerman, Paul (June 29, 1959). "The 'Mother' Blues: Jazz from Developed from Many, Varied Influences". Billboard. Vol. 71, no. 24. p. 26. ISSN 0006-2510.
  8. ^ "Ain't Nobody's Business (Legal Title) – BMI Work #15046". BMI. Archived from the original on August 26, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  9. ^ Hirtle, Peter B. (2010). "Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States". Cornell University. Archived from the original on September 26, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2010.
  10. ^ a b Gibbs, Craig Martin (2012). Black Recording Artists, 1877–1926: An Annotated Discography. McFarland. p. 116. ISBN 978-1476600857.
  11. ^ OKeh Records 8043, December 1, 1922
  12. ^ Paramount Records, February 1923
  13. ^ Columbia Records 3898, April 26, 1923
  14. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Record Research. p. 452. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.
  15. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research. p. 373. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8.
  16. ^ "H Two O / Billie Piper: 'Nobody's Business' – Overview". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  17. ^ "H20 featuring Billie – Singles". Officialcharts.com. Retrieved September 26, 2021.

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