Today’s tune by Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure, sounds dark but really is a love song.
“What Am I Living For,” was written by Fred Jacobson and Art Harris and done first by Chuck Willis in 1958. Willis, just 30, died right after it was released as a single. It’s also been covered by Conway Twitty, Percy Sledge, Ray Charles, Taj Mahal and Van Morrison.
Sleepy’s version has a gospel sound, thanks largely to Terry Gordon’s work on the keyboards. It was recorded on Feb. 5, 1977, at Singleton Sound Studio in Nashville.
Judging from what else was laid to vinyl that day, it’s entirely possible that Sleepy needed to bring it down for a moment. He also cut “Good Rockin’ Boogie,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover” and “Matchbox” that day.
“What Am I Living For,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “A Rockin” Decade,” 1997.