I first heard “I’m Shakin’” in the middle of a playlist from my uncle who is one of my go-to sources for excellent music. The artist who originally performed it, Little Willie John, gave it such a melancholy, blues/rock feel that his voice stuck with me. He didn’t have the flashy production or background vocals of the recent cover by Jack White.
In no way shape or form am I bashing Jack White’s version. I honestly enjoy both of them equally for different reasons. The one thing I truly love about this song is the mixed meter (if you can call it that). Mixed meter, additive rhythm, however you want to define it, what’s important is this: you expect one thing and you get another. “I’m Shakin’” doesn’t conform to typical Blues or Rock or R&B rhythmic conventions. The horns pickup into what you could call the chorus (or kind of a refrain) and it certainly gives you a jolt. You expect the main lick to come back and instead it sounds late!
Here are the two versions of the song. Jack White should definitely be commended in finding this gem and bringing it back into the spotlight on his newest album. But before you listen, check out this blurb from the Wikipedia article about Little Willie John, or as I like to call him – Lil’ Jon (HHWHAT!!!):
“Willie John was known for his short temper and propensity to abuse alcohol, and was dropped by his record company in 1963. In 1966, he was convicted of manslaughter and sent to Washington State Penitentiary for a fatal knifing incident following a show in Seattle. He appealed against his conviction and was released while the case was reconsidered, during which time he recorded what was intended to be his comeback album, but owing to contractual wrangling and the decline of his appeal, it was not released until 2008 (as Nineteen Sixty Six). Little Willie John died in 1968 at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington. Despite counter claims, the official cause of death was listed in his death certificate as a heart attack.”
Little Willie John’s version:
Jack White’s version: