Jimmy Mack chords

You can learn how to play Jimmy Mack by Martha and The Vandellas!

Jimmy Mack is a 1967 single by Martha and the Vandellas.

Written by Holland-Dozier-Holland, it would become the group’s 2nd most successful song, after Dancing In The Street.

Jimmy Mack has been included in the intermediate electric guitar course because it’s a great example of a song that can do with having its chords extended, or even better – substituted!

Let’s take a quick look at how this concept works.

There are two ways to extend a chord. The first is the traditional way, which works like this: By picking every other note from a scale we get a chord. Keep doing this and your chord becomes bigger.

For example, to achieve a Dbmaj7, instead of Db, you look for the next “every other note” in the scale and include it, now you have a maj7 chord. Next up would be a maj9 chord, etc.

In the key of Db, Db is chord I and the scale is the major scale (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13). No sharp or flat intervals.

Due to the intervals of the scale, the chords available become Db, Dbmaj7, Dbmaj9, Dbmaj11, and Dbmaj13.

The problem with this way of constructing chords is that we get too many notes to fit them all on the guitar. Few guitar parts sound good with more than three strings!

A solution to this dilemma is to substitute. Instead of building up the scale using “every other note”, we move to the next “every other triad”.

These are the triads of Db major:

Db (I) Ebm (II) Fm (III) Gb (IV) Ab (V) Bbm (VI) Cdim (VII)

  • To build a Db chord, we play Db
  • To build a Dbmaj7 chord, we play Fm
  • To build a Dbmaj9 chord, we play Ab

As long as you know what key you are in, and all the Roman numerals available, you can extend your chords in this way.

When you play Jimmy Mack, you could experiment with different triads to substitute and by doing so, extend the harmony. When you get good at this, you can do it in an improvised way.

When you substitute chords in an improvised way, you’re essentially playing jazz. Jimmy Mack is a great song to start experimenting with this concept.

Jimmy Mack chords and lyrics

Chords for Jimmy Mack

What you see above as chord boxes are not all shapes I play in the video above, for example, there’s an A-shaped Ab as well later on in the arrangement.

The path to success with playing rhythm parts is to know your CAGED shapes so well that you can move around the fretboard in an improvised way.

The chord progression of Jimmy Mack is played in the key of Db. There is plenty of room to extend and substitute these chords as briefly described above.

The best argument for playing a Gmaj7 instead of an Em9 is that you can have five CAGED shapes of a maj7 chord, this is not the case with a full min9 chord.

Here are the chords, including substitutions, for the intro chorus.

| Ebm | Gbmaj7 | Dbmaj7 | Gb |
Jimmy Mack, Jimmy. Oh, Jimmy Mack, when are you comin’ back.
| Ebm7 | Gbmaj7 | Dbmaj7 | Gb Ab |
Jimmy Mack, Jimmy. Oh, Jimmy Mack, when are you comin’ back.


| Db Gb | Db Gb | Db Gb | Gb Ab |
My arms are missing you, my lips feel the same way too.
| Db Gb | Db Gb | Db Gb | Db Gb |
I tried so hard to be true, like I promised I’d do.
| Db Gb | Db Gb | Db Gb | Db Gb |
But this guy keeps comin’ around, he’s tryin’ to wear my resistance down.

The following chorus has slightly different chords.

| Ebm | Emb7 | Db | Gb |
Hey, Jimmy, Jimmy. Oh, Jimmy Mack, when are you comin’ back.
| Ebm7 | Gbmaj7 | Dbmaj7 | Gb Ab |
Jimmy, Jimmy. Oh, Jimmy Mack, you better hurry back.

Verse 2 has the same chords as verse 1. Chorus 2 is the same as the intro. This is followed by a chorus tag and a solo, these are the chords.

| Db Gb | Db Gb | Db Gb | Gb Ab |
| Db Gb | Db Gb | Db Gb | Db Gb |
| Ebm | Emb7 Ab | Db | Gb | Gb Ab |

Next up we have verse 3. Now we don’t go to an Ab. Looks like this with lyrics.

| Db Gb | Db Gb | Db Gb | Db Gb |
I wanna say I’m not getting any stronger, I can’t hold out very much longer.
| Db Gb | Db Gb | Db Gb | Db Gb |
Trying hard, to be true. But Jimmy he talks just as sweet as you.

The final chorus is again the same as the intro.

The outro loops Db and Gb to fade.

||: Db Gb :||

Course preview (Guitar Lesson – Step 2)

In the video above, starting at 2:51, you find a preview of Jimmy Mack’s guitar lesson, it’s the beginning of step 2 from the course.

In this step, we work on playing the intro, which is the same as the chorus, all over the neck. There are six examples to work your way through, below you find TAB for two of these.

In the course, you get a loop to play along with the band, first practice each example, then start moving freely around the fretboard.

Jimmy Mack – Guitar Lessons

Jimmy Mack is your introduction to chord substitutions, this is something we’ll do a lot more of in the future.

Seemingly simple to do, once you get it you’ll see that we’ve opened a can of worms here. You can easily spend the rest of your life chord substituting.

Go to Jimmy Mack guitar lessons.

Jimmy Mack – Lyrics

Jimmy Mack, Jimmy. Oh, Jimmy Mack, when are you comin’ back.
Jimmy Mack, Jimmy. Oh, Jimmy Mack, when are you comin’ back.
My arms are missing you, my lips feel the same way too.
I tried so hard to be true, like I promised I’d do.

Go to Jimmy Mack lyrics.

The Funk Brothers – Biography

Motown’s house band didn’t have an official name, only they knew they were the Funk Brothers.

The band played on pretty much everything Motown released until ’72 when they relocated to Los Angeles and the band found a note on the hit factory door.

Go to The Funk Brothers biography.

Holland-Dozier-Holland – Biography

Lamont Dozier and brother Eddie and Brian Holland were Motown’s main songwriting team in Motown’s hit factory during the 60s.

Their hits are so many and their influence is so great it is a mystery how their names are not more widely known.

Go to Holland-Dozier-Holland biography.

Martha and the Vandellas – Biography

Martha met her Vandellas as she was a secretary at Motown’s hit factory where her soon-to-be backing singers sang for Marvin Gaye.

Together they had seven years of hits including Jimmy Mack, Nowhere To Run, and perhaps Motown’s biggest hit of them all in Dancing In The Street.

Go to Martha and the Vandellas biography.

Intermediate Electric – 13 Songs

You can learn how to play these 13 intermediate electric songs!

Be My Baby, Can I Get A Witness, Get Ready, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Jimmy Mack, Master Blaster (Jammin’), Money (That’s What I Want), My Guy, Rescue Me, Respect, Son Of A Preacher Man, Soul Man, and You Can’t Hurry Love.

Go to Intermediate Electric Songs.