In nearly one breath, [Muddy] Waters offers five accounts [of the origin of his song]: his own active authorship: he “made it” on a specific date. Then the “passive” explanation: “it come to me just like that.” After Lomax raises the question of influence, Waters, without shame, misgivings, or trepidation, says that he heard a version by Johnson, but that his mentor, Son House, taught it to him. In the middle of that complex genealogy, Waters declares that “this song comes from the cotton field.”
Blues and jazz musicians have long been enabled by a kind of “open source” culture, in which pre-existing melodic fragments and larger musical frameworks are freely reworked.
Compelling quote from a compelling editorial with an even more compelling origin. (Be sure to read it to the end.)