Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: 1960s

Danke Schoen

First recorded (as the instrumental “Candlelight Cafe”) by Bert Bert Kaempfert (1959 |1962).
Hit version by Wayne Newton (US #13/MOR #3 1963).

From the wiki: “‘Danke Schoen’ was composed by Bert Kaempfert (‘Spanish Eyes’, ‘Strangers in the Night‘) and was first recorded as a jazzy instrumental titled ‘Candlelight Cafe’ in 1959 with Ladi Geisler on guitar, and again in 1962 in an ‘easy listening’ arrangement. Kurt Schwabach wrote the German lyrics.

“The song gained international fame when, in 1963, Milt Gabler wrote English lyrics and 21-year old singer Wayne Newton recorded an American version. The song was originally intended for singer Bobby Darin as a follow-up to his hit single, ‘Mack the Knife’, but after seeing Newton perform at the Copacabana, in Las Vegas, Darin passed the song along to Newton, transposing the arrangement to fit Newton’s voice. ‘Danke Shoen’ became Newton’s first US Top-20 hit.

Goin’ Back

First recorded by Goldie (1966).
Hit versions by Dusty Springfield (UK #10/AUS #9/SNG #6 1966), The Byrds (US #89 1967).
Also recorded by Carole King (1970 |1980), Larry Lurex (1973).

From the wiki: “Billed as ‘Goldie’ (of Goldie & the Gingerbreads), Genya Raven released the original version of the classic Carole King-Gerry Goffin composition “Goin’ Back” in the spring of 1966. However, this single was withdrawn within a week by producer Andrew Loog Oldham, due to disagreements with Goffin and King over altered lyrics. King then decided to record “Goin’ Back” herself, but ultimately she offered it to Dusty Springfield instead who would record it three months later, making the U.K. Top-10 singles chart immediately in the wake of her UK #1 hit ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me‘.

Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat

First recorded by John Carter and Ken Lewis (1964).
Hit versions by Goldie & the Gingerbreads (UK #25 1965), Herman’s Hermits (US #2 1965).

From the wiki: “‘Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat’ was written by John Carter and Ken Lewis (‘Tossing and Turning’, ‘Little Bit O’ Soul‘) and was first recorded in 1964 by the songwriters’ group, Carter-Lewis & the Southerners with no apparent chart impact.

“The song would next appear separately on the UK and US music charts – first by a US group in the UK, and then by a UK group in the US.

A Thing Called Love

Written and first recorded by Jerry Reed (1968).
Hit versions by Jimmy Dean (C&W #21 1968), Johnny Cash (C&W #2/MOR #37/UK #4/CAN #1/IRE #1 1972).

From the wiki: “‘A Thing Called Love’ was written and first recorded by Jerry Reed in 1968.

“Jimmy Dean was the first artist to chart the song, peaking at #21 on the Country Singles chart in 1968. In 1971, the song was recorded by Johnny Cash and it became an international hit – peaking at #1 in Canada and Ireland, and also charting high in the UK and the Netherlands, becoming Cash’s biggest hit ever in Europe.”

A House Is Not a Home

First performed and released by Brook Benton (US #75/MOR #13/R&B #6 1964).
Other hit versions by Dionne Warwick (US #71/R&B #10/CAN #37 1964), Luther Vandross (1981).
Also recorded by Burt Bacharach (1965), Aretha Franklin (2005).

From the wiki: “‘A House Is Not a Home’ was a 1964 ballad written by the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the 1964 film of the same name, starring Shelley Winters and Robert Taylor, and was sung in the film by Brook Benton (‘A Rainy Night in Georgia’, 1970). A promotional single by Benton was released, debuting two weeks before the release of Dionne Warwick’s cover (as the B-side of ‘You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart)’). But, with two recordings of the same song charting concurrently, radio airplay and sales was split airplay. Benton’s version peaked at #75 on the Billboard Hot 100; Warwick’s B-side recording peaked at #71.

“Warwick’s single fared a bit better in Canada, where it peaked at #37.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

First recorded by Ray Stevens (US #81/C&W #55 1969).
Other hit version by Johnny Cash (C&W #1 1970).
Also recorded by Kris Kristofferson (1970).

From the wiki: “‘Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down’ was written by Kris Kristofferson and was first recorded in 1969 by Ray Stevens, for his album Kristofferson, whose production reached #55 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart and #81 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.

“The most successful version of the song originated from a Johnny Cash performance, taped live at the Grand Ole Opry’s Ryman Auditorium during a July 1970 recording his CBS TV variety show, The Johnny Cash Show, as part of a ‘Ride This Train’ segment, which was broadcast as the first episode of the Season Two. A companion album was then released by CBS Records in October 1970, with ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ issued as the promotional single. Both the album and the single topped the Country music charts, and won the Country Music Association Award for Song of the Year in 1970.

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.

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):

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).

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.

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.’

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.”

Hello Stranger

Written and first recorded by Barbara Lewis (US #3/R&B #1 1963).
Other hit versions by Fire & Rain (US #100 1973), Yvonne Elliman (US #15/R&B #57/MOR #1/UK #26/NETH #20/NZ #12 1977), Carrie Lucas & The Whispers (R&B #20 1985).
Also recorded by Martha & the Vandellas (1963), The Capitols (1966), The Supremes & The Four Tops (1970).

From the wiki: “‘Hello Stranger’ was written by Barbara Lewis herself, who was originally inspired to write the while working gigs in Detroit with her musician father: ‘I would make the circuit with my dad and people would yell out: ‘Hey stranger, hello stranger, it’s been a long time’.’ The song is notable because its title comprises the first two words of the lyrics but is never at any point repeated throughout the remainder of the song.

“Lewis recorded ‘Hello Stranger’ at Chess Studios in Chicago in January 1963. The track’s producer Ollie McLaughlin recruited The Dells to provide the background vocals. The arrangement by Riley Hampton – then working with Etta James – featured a signature organ riff provided by keyboardist John Young. The track was completed after thirteen takes. Lewis would recall that, on hearing the playback of the finished track, Dells member Chuck Barksdale ‘kept jumping up and down and saying, ‘It’s a hit, it’s a hit.’…I didn’t really know. It was all new to me.’

Patches (Dickey Lee)

First recorded by Jimmy Isle (1960).
Hit version by Dickey Lee (US #6 1962).

From the wiki:”‘Patches’ (not to be confused with Clarence Carter’s ‘Patches‘) was written by Barry Mann (‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place‘, ‘Venus in Blue Jeans‘, ‘Never Gonna Let You Go‘) and Larry Kobler imagining a ‘Romeo & Juliet’ scenario. The song tells in waltz-time the story of teenage lovers of different social classes whose parents forbid their love. The girl drowns herself in the ‘dirty old river.’ The singer concludes: ‘It may not be right, but I’ll join you tonight/ Patches I’m coming to you.’

“‘Patches’ was first recorded by Jimmy Isle for Everest Records in 1960 but which did not have any chart impact. Two years later, in 1962, Dickey Lee would cover the song. Because of its teen-suicide theme, the song was banned on a number of US radio stations. Still, it sold over one million copies, was awarded a gold disc, and peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at #6.

Before and After (Losing You)

First recorded by The Fleetwoods (1964).
Hit version by Chad & Jeremy (US #17/MOR #4 1965).

From the wiki: “‘Before and After’ was written in 1964 by Van McCoy (‘Baby I’m Yours‘, ‘The Hustle’), then a staff writer for Columbia Record’s publishing arm April Blackwood Music. The song borrowed the concept of ‘before and after’ images then popular in advertising campaigns for weight loss products: the song’s narrator compares his image with that of the current beau of his ex-girlfriend: ‘He wears a smile, I wear a frown…See the difference between the old and new/ Before and after losing you.’

“‘Before and After’ was first recorded by The Fleetwoods (‘Come Softly to Me’) in late 1964, and released in January 1965 as the title track for their album Before and After. Released as a single in February 1965, it had no apparent chart impact. UK singing duo Chad & Jeremy released a cover in May 1965 as the group’s label debut for Columbia Records after leaving World Artist Records. Its chart impact muted by the concurrent release of other Chad & Jeremy singles by the duo’s previous label, peaking at #17 on Billboard Hot 100, and proved to be the duo’s fourth but final Top-40 hit.”

Detroit City

First recorded (as “I Wanna Go Home”) by Billy Grammar (C&W #18 1962).
Other hit versions by Bobby Bare (US #16/C&W #4/MOR #4 1963), Tom Jones (US #27/UK #8/IRE #4 1967).
Also recorded by Arthur Alexander (1965), co-writer Mel Tillis (1968), George Jones (2005).

From the wiki: “‘Detroit City’, a ‘citybilly’ lament about the struggles and loneliness of a rural Southerner migrating to industrial Detroit, was written by Danny Dill and Mel Tillis. It was first offered to singer George Jones, who turned it down (but who would later record it in 2005 for his album Hits I Missed … and One I Didn’t), and so was first recorded and made famous (as ‘I Wanna Go Home’) by Billy Grammer in 1962.

“In 1963, country singer Bobby Bare covered the song, releasing it as ‘Detroit City’, scoring a Top-5 hit on both the Country and MOR music charts, and making it the title track from Bare’s debut album ‘Detroit City’ and Other Hits. It would win for Bare a Grammy award for the Best Country & Western Recording in 1963.

You’re Gonna Miss Me

First recorded by The Spades (1965).
Hit version by The 13th Floor Elevators (US #55 1966).

From the wiki: “‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’, written by Roky Erickson, was released as The 13th Floor Elevator’s debut single on Contact Records, in January 1966. Previous to that, Erickson had recorded the song with his earlier group The Spades.

“After entertaining the idea of embarking on a music career as a country singer, Erickson shifted to emulating the vocalization of rock and roll musical artists he held in high-regard, including James Brown, Little Richard, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. However, perfecting his wails, and screams took a level of considerable difficulty, and required a degree of privacy for Erickson, who wanted to project an impression that he was naturally talented.

“On occasions when he rehearsed, Erickson worked in seclusion with only a few close friends. During these practice sessions Erickson, at age 15, composed both ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ and ‘We Sell Soul’. Both of the songs originally appeared in 1965 on a single released by Erickson and his group the Spades, gathering regional success and intrigue from contemporary musical acts. Among those impressed with Erickson were jug player Tommy Hall and lead guitarist Stacy Sutherland of another local band, the Lingsmen, who persuaded Erickson to join their ensemble, which soon became the 13th Floor Elevators.

When Will I Be Loved

First recorded by The Everly Brothers (US #8 1960).
Other hit versions by Johnny Young & Kompany (AUS #3 1967), Linda Ronstadt (US #2/C&W #1/CAN #1 1975).
Also recorded by John Denver (1966, released 2011), The Bunch (1972), Dave Edmunds & Keith Moon (1974), Tanya Tucker & Phil Everly (1975), Rockpile (1980), John Fogerty & Bruce Springsteen (2009).

From the wiki: “‘When Will I Be Loved’ was written by Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers, who had a US Top-10 hit with it in the summer of 1960. The track was recorded (with Chet Atkins also on guitar) while the duo were contracted to Cadence Records; by 1960 they had moved to Warner Brothers and recording songs in a more mainstream pop/rock style than previously. The belated release by Cadence of ‘When Will I Be Loved’ provided the Everly Brothers with a final rockabilly-style hit.

Hey, Look Me Over

First performed by Lucille Ball & Paula Stewart (1960).
Popular versions by Peggy Lee (1963), Rosemary Clooney (1963), Bing Crosby & Rosemary Clooney (1963), Judy Garland (1963), Louis Armstrong (1964).

From the wiki: “‘Hey, Look Me Over’ was from the 1960 Broadway musical Wildcat, and was first performed by comedy actress Lucille Ball in what was the only Broadway appearance of her career.

Funky Broadway, Part 1

Written and first recorded (as “Funky Broadway Parts 1 & 2”) by Dyke & the Blazers (1966).
Hit version by Wilson Pickett (US #8/R&B #1/UK #43 1967).

From the wiki: “‘Funky Broadway’ was written by Arlester ‘Dyke’ Christian, and was originally recorded by his band, Dyke & the Blazers, in 1967. The song became a hit later same year when recorded by Wilson Pickett in a session at Muscle Shoals produced by Jerry Wexler.The song is notable as being the first charted single with the word ‘Funky’ in the title as well as being prototypical funk music itself.

“The ‘Broadway’ referred to in the title of the original is the Broadway Road (now known as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) in Phoenix, Arizona, that was at the center of the culture and entertainment of the area’s African American community, and which was ‘Dyke’ Christian’s hometown at the time.”

Baby I’m Yours

First recorded (as a demo) by Van McCoy (1965).
Hit versions by Barbara Lewis (US #11/R&B #5 1965), Peter & Gordon (UK #19 1965), Jody Miller (C&W #5 1971), Linda Lewis (UK #33 1976).
Also recorded by The Paramounts (1965, released 1988), Cher (1990).

From the wiki: “Barbara Lewis has stated that Van McCoy wrote ‘Baby I’m Yours’ specifically for her. But, that when she first heard the demo she disliked the song. (She has suggested that she was actually daunted by the high quality of the vocal, by McCoy himself, on the demo, and at the original session recalled ‘I didn’t really put 100% into my vocal performance’ hoping that Atlantic would shelve the track as sub-par.)

“‘[Producer] Ollie [McLaughlin] told me ‘Barbara, we’re gonna have to go back to Detroit and dub you in. We gotta do your vocals over. You’re just not giving like you should on the song.’ We did several takes [in Detroit] and he was wondering ‘How am I going to get this girl to give? She’s so hard-headed.’ He said ‘You know, Barbara, Karen can sing that song better than you.’ That was his little daughter. And it pissed me off. I did one more take, and that was the take that they selected.’

Victim of a Foolish Heart

First recorded by George Jackson (recorded 1972, released 2012).
Hit version by Bettye Swann (US #63/R&B #16 1972).
Also recorded by Joss Stone (2003).

From the wiki: “George Jackson was the in-house songwriter for Rick Hall’s ‘Fame Records’ in Muscle Shoals from 1968 well into the 1970s, and wrote hits for Candi Staton, Wilson Pickett and Clarence Carter, among others. He was also a great performer, but his demand as a songwriter kept his recording career very much in the background.

“In 1972, Jackson recorded ‘Victim of A Foolish Heart’ which is thought to have been recorded as a follow-up to George’s two previous Fame singles. But, his recording was shelved in favor of Bettye Swann’s version, which was released on Atlantic with some chart success. ‘Victim of a Foolish Heart’ would later be covered by Joss Stone, in 2003, on her multi million-selling Soul Sessions album.”

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