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.
“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.'”
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).
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.
First recorded (as a B-side) by Bobby Day (US #41/R&B #1 1958).
Also recorded by Thurston Harris (US #96 1958).
Other hit version by The Dave Clark Five (US #1/UK #45 1965).
Also recorded by The Righteous Brothers (1965).
From the wiki: “‘Over and Over’ was written by Robert James Byrd and was recorded by him in 1958 using his stage name, Bobby Day (a name he earlier used when a member of the original ‘Bob & Earl’ duo until parting ways in 1957). Day’s version entered the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958, first as the B-side to the hit single ‘Rockin’ Robin’ and, soon after, as an A-side, the same week a version of the same song by Thurston Harris (who had covered Day’s ‘Little Bitty Pretty One‘ the previous year with chart success) entered the chart. Day’s version would reach #41 on the Hot 100 but would top the R&B chart; Harris’ single peaked on the Hot 100 at #96.
First recorded by Bob & Earl (1958).
Hit version by The Innocents (US #18 1960).
From the wiki: “‘Gee Whiz’ was one of two similarly-titled songs that charted in 1960. This version, written by Jeanne Vicki and Jimmie Thomas (the latter an alias for Chess Records owner Leon René), was first recorded in 1958 by Bob & Earl, Bobby Day (née Bobby Byrd) and Earl Nelson. Both authors had also collaborated earlier Day’s #1 hit ‘Rockin’ Robin’ in 1958. (Note: Day left the duo in 1960, and was replaced by Bob Relf. It was the Relf/Nelson ‘Bob and Earl’ who would go on to record ‘Harlem Shuffle‘ in 1963, Bob and Earl’s only chart success.)
“‘Gee Whiz’ was covered in 1960 by The Innocents, the group who had backed up Kathy Young on ‘A Thousand Stars‘, with a single that peaked in the US Top-20.”
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.”
First recorded by Roy Hamilton (R&B #8 1954).
Other hit versions by Timi Yuro (US #4/MOR #2/R&B #22 1961), Little Anthony & the Imperials (US #55 1966), Fausto Leali (as “A Chi” ITA #1 1967), Connie Cato (C&W #14 1975), The Manhattans (US #97/R&B #10/UK #4 1976), Elvis Presley (US #28/MOR #7/C&W #6/UK #37 1976), Juice Newton (C&W #1 1985).
Also recorded by Carly Simon (1981).
From the wiki: “‘Hurt’ was written by Jimmie Crane and Al Jacobs, and was first recorded by Roy Hamilton (‘Unchained Melody‘, ‘Don’t Let Go‘), whose version peaked at #8 on the R&B Best Seller chart and spent a total of seven weeks on the chart.
“The song is considered to be the signature hit of Timi Yuro, whose version went to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. But, Juice Newton’s recording charted highest on any chart when it reached #1 on Billboard’s Country chart in 1985.
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.”
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.’
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.”
First recorded (as a demo) by Percy Mayfield (1960).
Hit versions by Ray Charles (US #1/R&B #1/UK #6/AUS #3 1961), The Stampeders (US #40/CAN #6 1975).
From the wiki: “‘Hit the Road Jack’ was written by R&B artist Percy Mayfield and was first recorded as an a cappella demo by Mayfield in 1960, before sending it to producer and Specialty Records owner Art Rupe. Rupe passed the song along to one of friends, Ray Charles. It became a worldwide hit after it was recorded by Charles – his sixth R&B #1 hit and second US #1 – with an arrangement featuring Raelettes’ vocalist Margie Hendrix, and would go on to also to win a Grammy award in 1962 for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording.”
First recorded by The Drifters (R&B #10 1956).
Other hit versions by Dion (US #2/R&B #5 1963), Billy “Crash” Craddock (US #33/MOR #23/C&W #1 1974).
Also recorded by The Beach Boys (1965, released 1993), Donald Fagen (1982).
From the wiki: “‘Ruby Baby’ was written by the hit songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (‘Hound Dog‘, ‘On Broadway‘). It was first recorded by the Drifters, who scored an R&B hit with the song in 1956. Dion covered ‘Ruby Baby’ in 1963, scoring a Top-5 hit. In 1974, Billy ‘Crash’ Craddock topped the US Country chart with his cover version.
“The Beach Boys recorded ‘Ruby Baby’ during sessions for their 1965 album Beach Boys’ Party!, but the recording remained unreleased until the band’s 1993 box set Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys. Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen covered ‘Ruby Baby’ for his 1982 solo album, Nightfly.”
First recorded by Jo Jo Wail & the Somethings (1963).
Hit version by Stevie Wonder (US #29/R&B #5 1964).
From the wiki: “‘Hey Harmonica Man’ was written by Marty Cooper and Lou Josie, and was first recorded in 1963 by Jo Jo Wail & the Somethings. It would be covered by Stevie Wonder in 1964.
“Wonder has poured scorn on his pre-’65 Motown output; whenever he’s asked about these records, he seems to lump them all together as a collection of ‘juvenilia’. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s ‘Hey Harmonica Man’ for which he reserves particular criticism, describing it on more than one occasion as ’embarrassing’.
First recorded (as “What a Man”) by Linda Lyndell (R&B #50 1968).
Other hit version by Salt N Pepa (US #3/R&B #3/UK #7 1993/AUS #2 1993).
From the wiki: “Linda Lyndell sang in gospel churches as a child; though she was white, she sang in both white and black churches, and eventually began singing with R&B groups as a teenager. In the 1960s she sang as a support act with James Brown and Ike & Tina Turner, and in 1967 Atlanta disc jockey Dave Crawford tipped her to Stax Records producers Isaac Hayes and David Porter. They recorded her first single, ‘Bring Your Love Back to Me’, in December 1967 and released it on Volt Records, but the song did not become a hit. In 1968 she did a second session, cutting the tune ‘What a Man’. The song was essentially improvised in the studio by Lyndell, record producer Dave Crawford, and the Stax studio musicians in Memphis, TN.
First recorded and co-written (as “The Wallflower”) by Etta James (R&B #1 1955).
Other hit version by Georgia Gibbs (US #1 1955).
Also re-recorded by Etta James (1958).
From the wiki:”‘The Wallflower’ (also known as ‘Roll with Me, Henry’ and ‘Dance with Me, Henry’) was one of several answer songs to ‘Work with Me, Annie’, by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters. Written by Johnny Otis (‘Willie and the Hand Jive‘), Hank Ballard (‘The Twist‘) and Etta James, James recorded it for Modern Records, with uncredited vocal responses from Richard Berry (‘Louie, Louie‘), under the title ‘The Wallflower’ and it became a R&B hit, topping the U.S. R&B chart for 4 weeks. More popularly known as ‘Roll with Me Henry’, James’ original version was considered too risque to play on Pop radio stations. In 2008, James received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award for her original 1955 recording.
“In 1955, the song was covered for the Pop music market by Georgia Gibbs – with uncredited vocal responses from Thurl Ravenscroft (the booming voice behind Tony the Tiger’s ‘They’re grrreat!’ in Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes television commercials, and as the vocalist for the song ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch’), under the title ‘Dance with Me Henry’.”
First recorded by Jewels (1954).
Hit versions by The Charms (US #15/R&B #1 1954), The Fontane Sisters (US #1 1954).
From the wiki: “‘Hearts of Stone’ was written by Eddie Ray and Rudy Jackson, a member of the San Bernardino, California-based R&B vocal group the Jewels, a group who began as a gospel group, then became the Marbles, recording for the Lucky label out of Los Angeles.
“According to Johnny Torrence, leader of the Marbles/Jewels, ‘Hearts of Stone’ was taken from a song they had recorded during their Gospel days. ‘Hearts of Stone’ was subsequently covered and taken up the charts by East Coast R&B vocal group the Charms, causing the story of the Jewels’ involvement to be ignored by various writers and DJs who assumed the Charms’ cover was the original. The Charms’ version of the song went to #1 on the R&B Best Sellers and #15 on the pop charts.
Based on “A Thousand Miles Away” by The Heartbeats (US #52/R&B #5 1956).
Hit versions by Shep & the Limelites (US #2/R&B #4 1961), Cliff Richard (US #23/MOR #3/UK #2 1981).
From the wiki: “‘A Thousand Miles Away’, written by James Sheppard, was recorded in 1956 by the Doo-wop group The Heartbeats (who were discovered by William Miller, A&R man for Hull Records, who also received a co-writing credit). Sheppard wrote the song after his ex-girlfriend moved away to Texas. He would go on to form the group Shep & the Limelites in 1960, at which point he adapted his original song into a new one, titled ‘Daddy’s Home’. Kahl Music, publisher of ‘A Thousand Miles Away’, sued Keel Music, publisher of ‘Daddy’s Home’, for copyright violation. Keel eventually lost, and this resulted in the end of both the Limelites and of Hull Records in 1966.
“The original ‘A Thousand Miles Away’ enjoyed a revival in the early 1970s when it was included on the American Graffiti motion picture soundtrack. UK singer Cliff Richard scored a Top 10 (and US Top 40) hit with his 1981 cover of ‘Daddy’s Home’.”
First recorded by Rose Royce (R&B #52/UK #3 1978).
Other hit versions by Fresh 4 (UK #10 1989), The Cover Girls (US #9/UK #38 1992), Jay Z (UK #13 1998).
From the wiki: “‘Wishing on a Star’ was written by Billie Rae Calvin and produced by famed former-Motown ‘psychedelic shaman’ Norman Whitfield (‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine‘,’War‘,’Smiling Faces Sometimes‘), and was included on Rose Royce’s second album, Rose Royce II: In Full Bloom. The original recording of ‘Wishing on a Star’ was not a big hit in the US, peaking at #52 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, but was a big chart hit in the United Kingdom, reaching #3 in March 1978. A cover by Fresh 4, in 1989, also peaked in the UK Top 10. The Cover Girls released a version in 1992 that peaked in the US Top 10.
First recorded by The Family (1985).
Hit version by Sinead O’Connor (US #1/UK #1/CAN #1/IRE #1/AUS #1 1989).
Also recorded by Prince & The New Power Generation (1993), fDeluxe (aka The Family) (2016).
From the wiki: “‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ was written and composed by Prince for one of his side projects, The Family. It was later made famous by Irish recording artist Sinéad O’Connor, whose arrangement was released as the second single from her second studio album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. This version, which O’Connor co-produced with Nellee Hooper, became a worldwide hit in 1990.
“The Family’s origins started with the disintegration of The Time in 1984. Lead singer Morris Day had left the band to pursue a solo career and guitarist Jesse Johnson became the de facto band leader. Prince invited the remaining members of The Time – Jellybean Johnson, Jerome Benton, and Paul Peterson – to his home and presented them with his new project. They agreed to become a new band called The Family, with Peterson renamed ‘St. Paul’ as the new frontman and bassist. The Family was a relatively important album in Prince’s musical career because it allowed him to test several musical concepts that he would later fully integrate in his music. ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ appeared on the album but it was not released as a single, and received little recognition. (A mix of the song, featuring Prince on vocals, was released in 1993 under the guise of The New Power Generation.)
First recorded by Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five (R&B #1 1945).
Other hit versions by Erskine Hawkins (US #12/R&B #2 1945), Woody Herman & His Orchestra (US #2 1945), James Brown (US #95 1964).
Also recorded by Champion Jack Dupree (1967), B.B. King (1971).
From the wiki: “‘Caldonia’ is a Jump Blues song, written by Louis Jordan (but crediting his then-wife, Fleecie Moore, for tax-evading purposes) and first recorded in 1945 by Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five. The lyrics may have been inspired by a real character: a tall Crescent City drag queen wearing oversized shoes.
“A cover version by Erskine Hawkins (‘Tuxedo Junction‘), also in 1945, was described by Billboard magazine as ‘rock and roll’, the first time that phrase was used in print to describe any style of music. Woody Herman and his orchestra also covered ‘Caldonia’ in 1945, arranged by the young Neal Hefti, with Herman singing the lead vocal. Jordan re-recorded the song in 1956, arranged by Quincy Jones and featuring torrid guitar work by Mickey Baker. Baker again recorded the song, in 1967, this time backing up Champion Jack Dupree.
First recorded (as “I Found You”) by Yvonne Fair & the James Brown Band (1962).
Also recorded by James Brown (1964).
Hit version by James Brown (US #3/R&B #1/UK #29 1965).
From the wiki: “‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’ was developed from an earlier Brown-penned song, ‘I Found You’, with a nearly identical melody and lyrics. ‘I Found You’ was recorded by Brown’s back-up singer, Yvonne Fair, and was released as a single in 1962 with little success.
“In 1964, Brown recorded an early version of ‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’ with a different arrangement, including a stuttering rhythm and prominent baritone sax line, under the title ‘I Got You’. This version appeared on the Smash Records album Out of Sight and was used in the 1965 film Ski Party, in which Brown lip-synched his performance. It was intended for a single release but was withdrawn due to a court order from King Records, with whom Brown was involved in a contract dispute.
“Re-recorded and released as a single in 1965 titled ‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’, the song would go to become Brown’s highest-charting song and is arguably his most widely-known recording.
First recorded by Nat Kendrick & the Swans (US #84/R&B #8 1960).
Also adapted (as “Mashed Potatoes (U.S.A.)”) by James Brown (1961).
Other hit version (as “The Pastrami”) by The Dartells (US#11/R&B #15 1963).
From the wiki: “‘(Do the) Mashed Potatoes’ was first released as a two-part single in 1960. For contractual reasons the recording was credited to ‘Nat Kendrick and the Swans’ but was, in fact, recorded by James Brown with his band in 1959. The recording arose out of James Brown’s success in using the Mashed Potato dance as part of his stage show. (The dance moves vaguely resemble that of the twist.) Brown wanted to record a ‘Mashed Potatoes’-themed instrumental with his band in order to capitalize on the dance’s popularity. However, King Records head Syd Nathan, a frequent critic of Brown’s proposals, would not allow it.
“Brown approached Henry Stone, a friend in the music business who ran the Dade Records label, about recording the piece with him. Stone, although nervous about crossing Nathan (with whom he did business), arranged for Brown to record at his Miami studio and agreed to produce the session.
“‘(Do the) Mashed Potatoes’ was recorded with Brown playing the piano and shouting the song’s title. To prevent Brown’s voice from being recognized, Stone overdubbed shouted vocals by Carlton ‘King’ Coleman, a local Miami radio disc-jockey, onto the recording, although Brown’s voice remains audible in the background. Leadership of the band was officially credited to Nat Kendrick, who was Brown’s drummer at the time, while the writing was credited to ‘Dessie Rozier’, another pseudonym for Brown.
First recorded by Jimmy Forrest & His All Star Combo (R&B #1 1951).
Inspired by Johnny Hodges “That’s the Blues, Old Man” (1940) & Duke Ellington “Happy Go Lucky Local” (1941).
Other hit versions by Buddy Morrow (US #27/UK #12 1952), Rusty Bryant (as “All Nite Long” 1952), James Brown & the Famous Flames (US #35/R&B #5 1962).
From the wiki: “‘Night Train’ was written by Jimmy Forrest but the song has a long and complicated history. The piece’s opening riff was first recorded in 1940 by a small group led by Duke Ellington sideman Johnny Hodges under the title ‘That’s the Blues, Old Man’. Ellington used the same riff as the opening and closing theme of a longer-form composition, “Happy-Go-Lucky Local”, that was itself one of four parts of his Deep South Suite.
“Forrest was part of Ellington’s band when it performed this composition, which has a long tenor saxophone break in the middle. After leaving Ellington, Forrest and his All Star Combo recorded ‘Night Train’ for United Records and, in 1951, had a major R&Bs hit. While ‘Night Train’ employs the same riff as the earlier recordings, it is used in a much earthier R&B setting.
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