Written and first performed by Anne Bredon (1959).
First commercial recording by Joan Baez (1961).
Also recorded by The Plebs (1964), The Association (1965).
Album hit version by Led Zeppelin (1969).
From the wiki: “‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ was written by Anne Bredon née Johannsen in the late 1950s. Bredon appeared on the live Folk music radio show, The Midnight Special, on Pacifica radio’s KPFA singing ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’. A fellow Folk singer guesting on the program, Janet Smith, took up the song and developed it further, playing it live at hootenanny events at Oberlin College, one performance of which was attended by Joan Baez. Baez requested of Smith to send her a recording of her songs, including ‘Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You’, which Baez subsequently began performing herself.
“Vanguard Records, Baez’s label, later sent Smith a letter asking if she had written ‘Babe’. In the meantime, Baez had recorded the song and included it on her In Concert album. Initial pressings listed no writer’s credit for ‘Babe’. The 1964 recording by the Surrey, England, band The Plebs credits ‘Trad arr. Dennis’ but, later the same year, the Joan Baez Songbook rightfully lists Anne Bredon as the author as does the 1965 recording of the song by The Association. (It was the group’s first single release, but had no chart impact.)
“Fast forward to the 1980s when Janet Smith heard her son’s copy of ‘Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You’ by Led Zeppelin. Noticing their album credits for the song read ‘Trad, arr. by Jimmy Page,’ Smith got curious and tracked down Bredon, who by now was living on the East Coast. As Folkies, neither Janet nor Anne had been familiar with Led Zeppelin. Royalty statements to Bredon from Vanguard’s Reyerson Publishing had dwindled as Baez’s album sales slowed, so she hadn’t had reason to think about it.
“Anne authorized Janet to pursue their case with Zep’s publisher, Superhype, agreeing to split any proceeds 50/50. Superhype claimed that since Page learned the song from Joan’s album – the one which listed no writing credit – he was led to assume it was an old song. And, because Led Zeppelin’s arrangement and recording made the song famous, they should share in the rewards. Eventually things were worked out such that subsequent pressings of Zep’s version would list Anne Bredon, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant as the composers. (Anne gets 50% of the royalties and Page and Plant split the other half).”
The Plebs, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” (1964):
The Association, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” (1965):
Led Zeppelin, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” (1969):