Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: Decade

Universal Soldier

Written and first recorded by Buffy Sainte-Marie (1964).
Hit versions by Donovan (US #53/UK #5 1965), Glen Campbell (US #45/AUS #16/SWE #4 1965).

From the wiki: “‘Universal Soldier’ was written and first recorded in 1964 by Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie for release on Sainte-Marie’s debut album It’s My Way!. The song was not a popular hit at the time of its release, but it did garner attention within the contemporary folk music community. Sainte-Marie said of the song: ‘I wrote ‘Universal Soldier’ in the basement of The Purple Onion coffee house in Toronto in the early sixties. It’s about individual responsibility for war and how the old feudal thinking kills us all.’

“A year later, it caught the attention of budding folk singer Donovan, who recorded it using a similar arrangement to Sainte-Marie’s original recording but with some lyrical changes. For example, in Donovan’s version, Dachau became Liebau (Lubawka, Poland), a training center for Hitler Youth. Donovan’s recording was released in the UK on an EP titled The Universal Soldier and continued Donovan’s run of high-charting UK releases by reaching #5 on the charts.

(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right

First recorded by The Emotions (unreleased 1972).
First released by Luther Ingram (US #3/R&B #1 1972).
Other hit versions by Jackie Burns (C&W #72 1972), Millie Jackson (US #42/R&B #42 1974), Barbara Mandrell (US #31/C&W 1 1978), Rod Stewart (UK #23 1980), Rhonda Clark (R&B #26 1992).
Also recorded by Veda Brown (unreleased 1972), Faces (1973).

From the wiki: “‘(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right’ was composed by Stax Records songwriters Homer Banks, Carl Hampton, and Raymond Jackson. Originally written for The Emotions, it was first recorded by The Emotions and also by Veda Brown, but neither of those recordings were ever released.

“The song has had a notable chart presence, most notably by Luther Ingram, whose recording topped the R&B chart for four weeks and rose to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972. Billboard ranked it as the #16 song for 1972.

Signs

First recorded and released by The Five Man Electrical Band (B-side 1970).
Hit versions by Bobby Vee (US #125 Feb 1971), The Five Man Electrical Band (re-release US #3/CAN #4/AUS #1 1971), Tesla (US #8/UK #70 1990).

From the wiki: “‘Signs’ was written by the Five Man Electrical Band’s frontman, Les Emmerson, and was recorded it for their second album, Good-byes and Butterflies, in 1970. ‘Signs’ was first released as the B-side earlier that year to the unsuccessful single ‘Hello Melinda Goodbye’, thus remaining relatively obscure.

“Re-released by the group in 1971 as the A-side, ‘Signs’ reached #4 in Canada and #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. Billboard ranked it as the #4 song for 1971. It became a gold record. But, prior to the Five Man Electrical Band re-release, ‘Signs’ made its first chart appearance in February 1971 when a recording by Bobby Vee ‘bubbled under’ the Hot 100, peaking at #125.

We’re All Alone

Written and first recorded by Boz Scaggs (AUS #54 1976).
Other hit versions by Frankie Valli (US #76/MOR #27/CAN #73 1976), La Costa (C&W #75 1977), The Walker Brothers (NETH #22 1977), Rita Coolidge (US #7/MOR #1/C&W #68/UK #6/IRE #6/AUS #32/NZ #34/NETH #22 1977).

From the wiki: “”We’re All Alone” was written by Boz Scaggs, and was included on his 1976 album Silk Degrees. ‘We’re All Alone’ was also released as the B-side of two of the four promotional singles releases from that LP, including ‘Lido Shuffle’. Released as an A-side single in Australia, it peaked at #57.

“The song garnered attention soon after the Scaggs’ album’s March 1976 release. Frankie Valli released a single version from his Valli LP which reached #78 U.S. in August 1976. The Walker Brothers – one of Scaggs’ formative influences – cut ‘We’re All Alone’ for their Lines album; the track had an October 1976 single release in the UK where the Frankie Valli version had a single release that July; the Walker Brothers’ version did reach #22 in the Netherlands in August 1977. Country singer La Costa (sister of Tanya Tucker) had a single release of ‘We’re All Alone’ in both the US – where it charted at #75 C&W – and also the UK where the track was the B-side of a remake of ‘I Second That Emotion’.

Only in America

First recorded by The Drifters (1963, released 1996).
Hit version by Jay & the Americans (US #25 1963).

From Songfacts:

“Written by the brilliant Brill Building songwriting teams of Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller (‘Hound Dog’, 1953; ‘Stand By Me’, 1961; ‘On Broadway’, 1963) and Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil (‘On Broadway’, 1963; ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” 1964; ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place’, 1965; ‘Never Gonna Let You Go’, 1982), ‘Only in America’ was first written for and recorded by The Drifters.

“It was written at a time before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had become the law of the land, and the original lyrics when first submitted reflected the racism that existed at the time in the US:

‘Only in America, land of opportunity, can they save a seat in the back of the bus just for me / Only in America, Where they preach the Golden Rule, will they start to march when my kids go to school.’

“Atlantic Records had a problem with the original lyrics, so the songwriters rewrote them to be a satiric message about ‘patriotism’. The Drifters recorded the song with these new ‘patriotic’ lyrics, but the group refused to allow its release because they did not believe that message.

“Songwriters Mann and Weil were also upset with the changes to the song. Afterward, they began taking more control over how their songs were recorded, with Mann taking on additional studio production duties.

“Kenny Vance of Jay & the Americans recalls how they came to record this song: ‘I happened to go up to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s office, because I used to hang out there as a kid – they produced us. I guess I was like a barometer for them, and they played me ‘Only In America.’ I said, ‘Boy, that would be great if we could have that,’ because we’re Jay & the Americans. They took us over to Atlantic recording, who had a brand new-fangled machine, an 8-track recording deck. Up until those dark days we were recording all four-track. This allowed Jay & the Americans to record [our] vocals over the original backing tracks recorded for the Drifters.’

“Of the original Drifters’ recording Vance recalled ‘It’s a killer version. I had the acetate and I gave it to the guy at Rhino who was putting the CD out. I saved it all those years. It just was a killer performance.'”

[Additional source material: ‘Only in America’: 50 Years later a Drifters’ song has its day‘, Long Beach Post, November 5, 2008]

Jay & the Americans, “Only in America” (1963):

Playground in My Mind

First recorded by Billy Lawrence (1971).
Hit versions by Clint Holmes (US #2/MOR #7/CAN #7/NZ #3 1972), Johnny Ashcroft (AUS #19 1973).

From the wiki: “‘Playground In My Mind’, a nursery rhyme-styled song, was written by record producer Paul Vance (‘Catch a Falling Star’, 1957; ‘Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’, 1960) with Lee Pockriss, and was first recorded in 1971 by Billy Lawrence (in a session produced by Vance and Pockriss) and released in June 1971 by Atlantic Records with no apparent chart impact.

“When produced again by Vance, it featured a duet with Clint Holmes and Vance’s son, nine-year-old Philip, on the chorus. ‘Playground in My Mind’ was released in the U.S. in July 1972 but did not reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart until March 24, 1973 – going on to chart for a total of 23 weeks, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It ended 1973 at the 12th most popular song of the year.”

Rings

First recorded (as a demo) by Eddie Reeves & Alex Harvey (1971).
First released by Lonnie Mack (1971).
Hit versions by Cymarron (US #17/MOR #6/CAN #41/AUS #46 1971), Tompall & the Glaser Brothers (C&W #7 1972), Reuben Howell (US #86 1974), Lobo (US #43/CAN #30 1974), Twiggy (UK#35 1977).
Also recorded by Alex Harvey (co-writer 1972), Leo Kottke (1983).

From the wiki: “‘Rings’ was composed by Eddie Reeves, an executive at the West Coast office of United Artists Music, and Alex Harvey, who was contracted as a songwriter to United Artists, and was written for the wedding of a friend of Reeves named Bob Hamilton who – as the song’s lyrics indicate – had experienced an estrangement and reconciliation with his fiancée: the song concludes with the couple ‘hand in hand…upon the sand with the preacher man’ – a reference to Hamilton and his bride’s exchanging vows on the Venice beachfront. The lyric ‘Got James Taylor on the stereo’ was a reference to James Taylor’s ‘Fire and Rain‘ being the couple’s favorite song – while the ‘Tony and Mario’ mentioned in the song were the owners of a Hollywood restaurant the couple frequented.

Free the People

Written and first recorded by Barbara Keith (released Sept 1970).
Hit versions by Delaney & Bonnie (US #75 May 1970), Sherbet (AUS #18 1971).
Also recorded by Barbra Streisand (1971).

From the wiki: “A singer/guitarist and folk-influenced songwriter, Barbara Keith’s curious career began when she was discovered at Greenwich Village’s famous Café Wha?. Her first appearance on record was in 1968, with her background vocals and one of her songs appearing on the self-titled debut from Kangaroo Records. Verve Records released the first of two self-titled albums in 1969.

“Keith would would initially sign with Verve for one album (1969’s Barbara Keith). Some critics fell in love with the album but as far as sales the album went nowhere. Keith switched labels to A&M Records in August/September, 1970. Her first A&M single, ‘Free the People’, was soon covered by Delaney and Bonnie, whose promotional single peaked at #75 on the Billboard Hot 100, and a year later by Barbra Streisand (for her album Stoney End that peaked at #10 on the Billboard 200 album chart in the United States, her first to reach the top 10 in five years and a marked departure from Streisand’s previous musical direction).

Caravan of Love

First recorded by Isley-Jaspar-Isley (US #51/R&B #1/NETH #21 1985).
Other hit version by The Housemartins (UK #1/IRE #1/AUS #7/NETH #3/SWE #1 1986).

From the wiki: “‘Caravan of Love’ was a 1985 R&B hit written and originally recorded by Isley-Jasper-Isley for their 3+3 album. The song became the trio’s biggest hit, going to #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart and #51 on the Billboard pop chart in 1985, but would be their only prominent hit before they splintered into solo careers in 1988.

Reach Out for Me

First recorded by Lou Johnson (US #74 1963).
Other hit versions by Dionne Warwick (US #20/R&B #1 1964), Olivia Newton-John (MOR #32/AUS #153 1989).

From the wiki: “‘Reach Out for Me’, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, was first recorded in 1963 by Lou Johnson.

“Johnson came from a musical family, and started singing in gospel choirs in his teens. In 1962, Johnson signed as a solo singer with Bigtop Records, run by the Hill & Range music publishing company in the famed Brill Building. There, he met the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who took a liking to the singer and wrote Johnson’s first single, ‘If I Never Get to Love You’. Neither that song nor his second record, ‘You Better Let Him Go’ (written by Joy Byers), were hits. But, his third single, ‘Reach Out for Me’, another Bacharach-David composition and this time produced by Bacharach, reached #74 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1963. However, as it rose up the charts, the Bigtop Records collapsed, limiting the record’s success.

This Guy’s in Love with You

First performed by Herb Alpert (1968).
First released (as “That Guy’s in Love”) by Danny Williams (1968).
Hit versions by Herb Alpert (US #1/MOR #1/CAN #1/UK #3/AUS #1 1968), Dionne Warwick (as “This Girl’s in Love with You” US #7/MOR #2/R&B #7/CAN #7 1969).

From the wiki:”‘This Guy’s in Love with You’ was by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. [T]he original performance originated when Herb Alpert, while visiting at Bacharach’s office, asked, ‘Say, Burt, do you happen to have any old compositions lying around that you and Hal never recorded; maybe one I might be able to use?’ Alpert said he made it his practice to ask songwriters that particular question: often a ‘lost pearl’ was revealed. As it happened, Bacharach recalled one, found the lyrics and score sheet in his office filing cabinet, and offered it to Alpert: ‘Here, Herb … you might like this one.’

“Alpert originally sang ‘This Guy’s in Love with You’ on his April 1968 television special, The Beat of the Brass. In response to numerous viewer telephone calls to the network following the broadcast, Alpert decided that the song should be used as the promotional single for the subsequent May 1968 release of the TV special’s soundtrack. But, the first release of ‘This Guy’s in Love with You’, titled ‘That Guy’s in Love’, was in the UK by South African-born singer Danny Williams in late April 1968, for his self-titled album. Williams’ recording, however, was not released as a single.

Hot Rod Lincoln

Based on “Hot Rod Race” by Arkie Shibley & His Mountain Dew Boys (C&W #5 1951).
Also recorded (as “Hot Rod Race”) by Tiny Hill (US #29/C&W #7 1951).
First recorded as “Hot Rod Lincoln” by Charlie Ryan & the Livingston Brothers (1955).
Also recorded by Charlie Ryan & the Timberline Riders (1960).
Hit versions (as “Hot Rod Lincoln”) by Johnny Bond (US #26 1960), Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen (US #9/MORE #28/CAN #7 1972), Asleep at the Wheel (C&W #65 1988).

From the wiki: “‘Hot Rod Lincoln’ was written by singer-songwriter Charlie Ryan in 1955 as an answer song to the 1951 hit ‘Hot Rod Race’ which describes a race in San Pedro, Los Angeles between two hot rod cars, a Ford and a Mercury, which stay neck-and-neck until both are overtaken by ‘a kid in a hopped-up Model A.’ The importance of ‘Hot Rod Race’, according to Jim Dawson and Steve Propes (in What Was the First Rock ‘n’ Roll Record?), lies in the fact that ‘it introduced automobile racing into popular music and underscored the car’s relevance to American culture.’

“Written by George Wilson, ‘Hot Rod Race’ became a major hit for Arkie Shibley and his Mountain Dew Boys, staying on the Country & Western chart for seven weeks, peaking at #5 in 1951. Tiny Hill also released a cover version in 1951 that not only charted C&W but crossed over to the Billboard pop music chart where it peaked at #29.

“The song ‘Hot Rod Race’ ends with:

When it flew by us, I turned the other way.
The guy in Mercury had nothing to say,
For it was a kid, in a hopped-up Model A.

“These lyrics set the stage for ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’, the ‘answer song’ written in 1955 by Charlie Ryan. ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’ is sung from the perspective of this third driver, whose own hot rod is a Ford Model A with ‘… eight cylinders; uses them all [and] overdrive, just won’t stall / With a 4-barrel carb and a dual exhaust, with 4.11 gears you can really get lost / It’s got safety tubes, but I ain’t scared / The brakes are good, tires fair.’

“Ryan’s original rockabilly version of the song was released in 1955 by Charley Ryan & the Livingston Bros. Ryan recorded a second version in 1959, credited to Charlie Ryan & the Timberline Riders. Ryan based the description of the eponymous car on his own hot rod, built on a 1948 12-cylinder Lincoln chassis with a 1930 Ford Model A body fitted to it, which he had raced against a Cadillac sedan in Lewiston, ID, driven by a friend but changing the locale to Grapevine Hill to fit it within the narrative of ‘Hot Rod Race’.

“Another cover of ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’, recorded by country musician Johnny Bond in 1960, was the first charting version of the song. The 1971 version by country-rock band Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, released as the second promotional single from the album Lost in the Ozone, became the most successful version of ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’, peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, #28 Adult Contemporary, #7 in Canada, and was ranked #69 on the U.S. Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1972.”

Tiny Hill, “Hot Rod Race” (1951):

Charlie Ryan & the Livingston Brothers, “Hot Rod Lincoln” (1955):

Charlie Ryan & the Timberline Riders, “Hot Rod Lincoln” (1960):

Johnny Bond, “Hot Rod Lincoln” (1960):

Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, “Hot Rod Lincoln” (1972):

With a Little Help from My Friends

First recorded by The Beatles (1967).
First single release by The Young Idea (UK #10 1967).
Other hit single versions by Joe Cocker (US #68/UK #1 1968), The Beatles (US #71/UK #63 1978), Wet Wet Wet (UK #1/IRE #1/FRA #3/GER #3 1988), Sam & Mark (UK #1 2004).

From the wiki: “‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ was written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, and first appeared on the Beatles’ 1967 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Not one of that album’s promotional single releases, the song was first released as single by British singers The Young Idea in 1967.

“A subsequent recording of the track by Joe Cocker – a radical re-arrangement of the original, including an extended instrumental intro (featuring keyboardist Tommy Eyre and guitarist Jimmy Page) – became a hit single in 1968 and an anthem for the Woodstock era. In 1978, the Beatles’ recording, paired with ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, was reissued as a single.

(The) Marvelous Toy

Written and first recorded by Tom Paxton (1962).
Hit versions by The Chad Mitchell Trio (US #43/MOR #20 1963); Peter, Paul & Mary (1969).

From the wiki: “‘The Marvelous Toy’ was written in 1962 by folk singer Tom Paxton, and was first released on his album of songs recorded live at the ‘Gaslight Cafe’, Greenwich Village, I’m The Man That Built The Bridges. The album liner notes opine that ‘[t]his LP marks Tom Paxton’s achievement. Taped at the Gaslight on a series on a series of warm Autumn afternoons in 1962, it is his own interpretation of the songs he has given America – and a promise of the many fine songs yet to come … The singer is at home in the whimsical world of children, too. ‘THE MARVELOUS TOY’, with its zip, bop noises is a constant favorite with Village audiences.’

Sixteen Tons

Written and first recorded by Merle Travis (1946).
Other hit versions by Johnny Desmond (US #17 1955),Tennessee Ernie Ford (US #1/C&W #1/UK #1 1955), Frankie Laine (UK #10 1956).
Also recorded by The Weavers (1955), B.B. “Blues Boy” King and His Orchestra (B-side 1956).

From the wiki: “‘Sixteen Tons’ was written in 1946 by Merle Travis about a coal miner, based on life in the coal mines of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. First recorded in Hollywood, CA, in 1946, ‘Sixteen Tons’ was released in July 1947 by Capitol on Travis’s album Folk Songs of the Hills, widely regarded as one of Travis’ finest achievements. The album became a gold record.

“According to Travis, the lyric from the chorus, ‘another day older and deeper in debt’, was a phrase often used by his coal miner father. This, and the line ‘I owe my soul to the company store’, are a reference to the truck system and to debt bondage. Under this scrip system, workers were not paid cash; rather they were paid with non-transferable credit vouchers that could be exchanged only for goods sold at the company store. This made it impossible for workers to store up cash savings. Workers also usually lived in company-owned dormitories or houses, the rent for which was automatically deducted from their pay. In the United States the truck system and associated debt bondage persisted until the strikes of the newly formed United Mine Workers and affiliated unions forced an end to such practices in the 1960s.

Fanfare for the Common Man

First performed by Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Aaron Copland (1943).
Hit version by Emerson, Lake & Palmer (UK #2 1970).

From the wiki: “‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ was written on request from Eugene Goossens, music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, in response to the US entry into the Second World War. During the First World War, the Cincinnati orchestra had asked British composers for a fanfare to begin each orchestral concert. It had been so successful that Goossens thought to repeat the procedure in World War II but with American composers.

“In 1942, Copland was commissioned by Goossens to write the fanfare. Copland recalled he was inspired by a speech US Vice President Henry A. Wallace had given that spring at the Free World Association in New York City:

“‘Some have spoken of the American Century,’ Wallace proclaimed. ‘I say that the century on which we are entering, the century which will come out of this war, can be and must be the century of the common man.’

Change of Heart

First released by Samantha Sang (recorded 1977, released B-side 1978).
Hit version by Eric Carmen (US #19/MOR #6/CAN #14 1978).

From the wiki: “‘Change of Heart’ was written by Eric Carmen. It was first recorded in 1977 by Samantha Sang for her album, Emotion, and released as a single in April 1978 as the B-side to ‘You Keep Me Dancing’ (US #57), the follow-up single to her Top-10 international hit Emotion.

“Carmen released ‘Change of Heart’ in September 1978 as the lead single to Change of Heart, his third solo album (after leaving The Raspberries), with Sang on backing vocals.”

Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft

First recorded by Klaatu (US #62/CAN #45 1976).
Other hit version by The Carpenters (US #32/MOR #18/UK #9/CAN #9/IRE #1 1977).

From the wiki: “‘Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft’, written by Terry Draper, John Woloschuk, was first recorded by Canadian band Klaatu in 1976 for release on their debut album 3:47 EST. John Woloschuk, a member of Klaatu and one of the song’s composers, recalled:

‘The idea for this track was suggested by an actual event that is described in The Flying Saucer Reader, a book by Jay David published in 1967. In March 1953 an organization known as the ‘International Flying Saucer Bureau’ sent a bulletin to all its members urging them to participate in an experiment termed ‘World Contact Day’ whereby, at a predetermined date and time, they would attempt to collectively send out a telepathic message to visitors from outer space. The message began with the words … ‘Calling occupants of interplanetary craft!”

“After its release, the Klaatu recording would open night transmissions of the pirate radio station Radio Caroline. Even more bizarre, the song got caught up in rumors that it presaged a Beatles reunion – that ‘Klaatu’ was just a pseudonym for the Fab Four’s return to the recording studio (and possible reunion concert).

Stop and Smell the Roses

First recorded by Henson Cargill (recorded 1973, C&W #29 1974).
Other hit version by co-writer Mac Davis (US #9/MOR #1/C&W #40/CAN #3 1974).

From the wiki: “‘Stop and Smell the Roses’ was written by songwriter Mac Davis (he wrote ‘In the Ghetto’ for Elvis Presley) and the noted bandleader-trumpeter Doc Severinsen. It was first recorded by Henson Cargill (best known for the socially controversial 1968 Country #1 hit ‘Skip a Rope’) in late 1973 on his album This Is Henson Cargill Country, and then released in May 1974 as something of a come-back single for the performer, peaking at #29 on the Country singles chart.

“Co-writer Davis released his arrangement in March 1974 as the title track for the album Stop and Smell the Roses. Promoted as a single beginning in August 1974, ‘Stop and Smell the Roses’ peaked at #40 on the Country singles chart but went Top-10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Canadian RPM music charts and topped the MOR chart in the US.”

Too Much

First recorded by Bernard Hardison (1954).
Also recorded by Frankie Castro (1956).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #1/C&W #3/R&B #3 1957).

From the wiki: “Written by Lee Rosenberg and Bernard Weinman, ‘Too Much’ was built around a teen catchphrase (‘Aw, man, that’s too much!’). First recorded by Bernard Hardison (‘with band’) in 1954, it had no chart impact – possibly due to its lyrics being considered ‘too suggestive’. Recorded again two years later by Frankie Castro for Mercury Records, it again failed to chart – but did garner a ‘rave’ review in Billboard:

‘A personality-packed side with a subtle r&r back-up. For junior hipsters.’ – Billboard, May 19, 1956

“But, covered (with lyrics ‘sanitized’) by Elvis Presley, in 1957, ‘Too Much’ topped the Billboard Hot 100. It also went Top-5 on both the Country and R&B music charts.”

Hello Dolly!

Based on “Sunflower” by The Russ Morgan Orchestra (US #5 1949).
Hit versions by Carol Channing (1964), Louis Armstrong (demo recording US #1/MOR #1 1964).

From the wiki: “‘Hello, Dolly!’, the title song from the popular 1964 musical of the same name. was written by Jerry Herman (music and lyrics), who also wrote the scores for many other popular musicals including Mame and La Cage aux Folles.

“In December 1963, a month prior to the show’s opening and cast album release, at the behest of his manager, Louis Armstrong produced a demonstration recording of ‘Hello, Dolly!’ for the song’s publisher to use to promote the show. Hello, Dolly! opened on January 16, 1964 at the St. James Theatre in New York City, and it quickly became a major success (2844 total performances, through December 1970). When the original cast album was released, it topped the Billboard Album chart for seven weeks and was the top Album of the Year on Billboard’s year-end chart.

“As successful as the stage show and title song itself was to become, the song ‘Hello, Dolly!’ became caught up in a lawsuit which could have endangered timely plans for bringing the musical to the silver screen. Mack David, an Academy Award-nominated composer (‘Walk on the Wild Side’, ‘The Ballad of Cat Ballou’) also known for his compositions for television (‘Casper, the Friendly Ghost’), sued for infringement of copyright, because the first four bars of Herman’s show number, ‘Hello, Dolly!’, were the exact same as those in the refrain of David’s song ‘Sunflower’ from 1948. As Herman recounts in his memoirs, he had never heard ‘Sunflower’ before the lawsuit, and wanted a chance to defend himself in court. But, for the sake of those involved in the show and the potential film, he reluctantly agreed to pay a settlement before the case would have gone to trial.

It Had to Be You

First recorded by Sam Lanin & His Roseland Orchestra (1924).
Hit versions by Isham Jones (US #1 1924), Dick Haymes & Helen Forrest with Victor Young & His Orchestra (US #4 1944).
Also recorded by Harry Connick Jr. (1989).

From the wiki: “‘It Had to Be You’ was written by Isham Jones, with lyrics by Gus Kahn. Jones and Kahn wrote the tune in 1924, shortly after Jones’ wife bought him a baby grand piano for his 30th birthday and he stayed up all night noodling around until he came up with a few melodies, one of them being ‘It Had To Be You.’ Composer Johnny Mercer, no slouch himself at writing lyrics (‘Blues in the Night‘, ‘Jeepers Creepers‘, ‘Satin Doll’), has called ‘It Had to Be You’ the ‘greatest popular song ever written.’

“The first recording of the song occurred on March 20, 1924 and was produced by Sam Lanin & His Roseland Orchestra. Jones’ own recording, produced on April 24, 1924, became a #1 hit later that year. The song charted again in 1944, recorded by Dick Haymes and Helen Forrest with the Victor Young orchestra.

The Entertainer

First performed by Scott Joplin (1902).
First recorded (as “Easy Winner”) by The Blue Boys (1928).
Also recorded by Joshua Rifkin (1970).
Hit version by Marvin Hamlisch (US #3/MOR #1 1973).

From the wiki: “‘The Entertainer’, a classic piano rag, was composed in 1902 by Scott Joplin. It was sold first as sheet music. Later, in the 1910s, it enjoyed sales as a ‘piano roll’ to be played/reproduced on player pianos. It was not until 1928 when ‘The Entertainer’ was first recorded by blues and ragtime musicians, The Blue Boys, playing on mandolin and guitar. The Blue Boys were Matthew Prater and Napoleon Hayes, from Vicksburg, MS, and they combined their recording into a medley with ‘Creole Belle’, titling it ‘Easy Winner’.

Yesterday, When I Was Young

First recorded (as “Hier Encore”) by Charles Aznavour (1964).
Hit English-language version by Roy Clark (US #19/C&W #9/MOR #6/CAN #7 1969).

From the wiki: “‘Yesterday, When I Was Young’ was originally written and recorded as ‘Hier Encore’ (‘Yesterday Again’) in France by songwriter Charles Aznavour and released in September 1964. It was subsequently released in Italian as ‘Ieri Si’, in Danish as ‘Hvor tiden går’, in Japanese ‘帰り来ぬ青春’ [‘Returning Youth’], in Spanish as ‘Ayer Aún’, ‘Eilen kun mä tiennyt en’ in Finnish and, in 1969, in English as ‘Yesterday, When I Was Young’. It is considered one of Aznavour’s greatest hits.

“The English-language lyrics, written by Herbert Kretzmer, tell of a man reflecting on his life. Country singer Roy Clark covered ‘Yesterday, When I Was Young’ in 1969. His version became his biggest hit up to that time on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, peaking at #9 and becoming his only Top-40 pop hit, peaking at #19. Clark performed the song at Mickey Mantle’s funeral in 1995, at Mantle’s personal request.”

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