‘Mercy, Mercy’ and young Hendrix showcase the rhythm in R&B

Don Covay

This song emphasizes the “rhythm” in “rhythm & blues.”

“Mercy, Mercy” or “Have Mercy” was recorded by Don Covay in 1964. It features 22-year-old Jimi Hendrix on guitar. He’s still a few years away from his own solo career, but his guitar playing is recognizable.

After his stint in the Army, Hendrix did gigs and sessions with people like Little Richard, The Isley Brothers, and Ike & Tina Turner. “Mercy, Mercy” was one of Covay’s many hit songs. He also wrote “Sookie, Sookie,” “See Saw” and “Chain of Fools.”

One year later a young British band, whose singer was tremendously influenced by Don Covay, covered the song on their third album – Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. Here they are from Shindig that same year:


Years before his big pop hits like “Addicted To Love,” and “Simply Irresistible,” singer Robert Palmer cut “Mercy Mercy,” with a groove heavily influenced by Little Feat, some of whom played on his 1976 track.

Shemekia Copeland is the daughter of blues singer Johnny Copeland, and she obviously learned well, with a string of successful albums with producers like Steve Cropper and Dr. John.

Her 1998 debut included “Have Mercy.” Shemekia Copeland recorded at Jazz24/KPLU studios in 2010, this is “Never Going Back to Memphis” from that session:


Here are the full versions of “Mercy, Mercy” tracked through time:

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