In the song "Cocaine Blues" (in the style of Townes Van Zandt) the opening chord progression (transposed to C) is C - E7 - F. That is a I - III7 - IV or a V - VII7 - I, depending on what your ear hears. The F is held longer than the other two chords, though the following passage definitely uses C as the tonic. To me either interpretation works.

The thing that strikes me as weird is the III7 - IV motion. I know that songs of this style don't need to make sense from a common practice pov, and it might be typical to use only major chords in lieu of diatonic minor ones. It sticks out to me because I can't think of any other songs that use it. While unfamiliar, the chord change is very pleasing to me, and so I was wondering:

  1. Is there a name for this?
  2. Are there examples of this type of chord change is other songs? Similar or dissimilar styles.

Not as important (I think?): the b7 on the E is kind of a neutral 7, he bends it up but my ear isn't good enough to say if it quite bends an entire half step. My working theory on why I like the sound is just that the typical guitar bend to a neutral blue note just always sounds good.

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    @Aelianus_Adolphus working off of an online tab and an untrained ear I'm pretty sure its E7
    – Awalrod
    Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 15:53
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    FYI, the old standard "On the Sunny Side of the Street" starts with I - III7 - IV.
    – user39614
    Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 15:54
  • @Aelianus_Adolphus - it's E7 - with a G#.
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 16:02
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    “Dock of the Bay” is another song that uses this progression in the verses. Actually, speaking of unusual (or non-) resolutions to dominant chords, this song is the king! It also has II7-I and VI7-I. Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 16:57
  • @Aelianus_Adolphus Sorry I meant the 7 was neutral, as it sounds like it's bent a quarter tone(?) up from D. I know that "neutral" is usually used to refer to thirds
    – Awalrod
    Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 17:05

1 Answer 1


It could also be construed as I>V/vi>IV (in key C). That E(7) paves the way towards Am, but doesn't get there! It's pretty much an interrupted cadence. The U.S. term for that being deceptive - much more appropriate!

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    Cool. I understood that deceptive cadences always end on vi, but a quick google search says that ending on any chord other than the tonic would qualify. I'm sure some are more common than others
    – Awalrod
    Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 15:56
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    Actually Tim, it kind of does get there! F and Am share two of three notes, A and C, both of which are the notes that the tritone of the E7 resolves to, G#-A and D-C. To me that is why this chord progression works so well. Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 16:45
  • @JohnBelzaguy - never really considered that, but yes, certainly! Could we take it a bit further, and go E7>Fmaj7?
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 16:51
  • Absolutely! I also commented on the question regarding another song that has this “cadence” and a few other odd ones… Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 17:02
  • @Tim while strumming the song (haven't quite got the fingerpicking down) it's actually easier to play the Fmaj7, which sounds good too.
    – Awalrod
    Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 17:07

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