Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: R&B

Hearts of Stone

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.

Daddy’s Home

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’.”

Wishing on a Star

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, 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.

Nothing Compares 2 U

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.)

Caldonia (What Makes Your Big Head So Hard?)

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.

I Got You (I Feel Good)

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, ‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’ became Brown’s highest-charting song and is arguably his most widely known recording.

(Do the) Mashed Potatoes

First recorded by Nat Kendricks & the Swans (1960).
Also adapted (as “Mashed Potatoes (U.S.A.)”) by James Brown (1961).
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. 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.

Night Train

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 (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.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Written and first recorded by Gil Scott-Heron (1970).
Popular version by Gil Scott-Heron (1971).

From the wiki: “‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ is a song-poem written by Gil Scott-Heron. Scott-Heron first recorded it as a live performance for his 1970 album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, on which he recited the lyrics, accompanied by congas and bongo drums. A re-recorded version, with a full band, was the B-side to Scott-Heron’s first single’Home Is Where the Hatred Is’, in 1971 from his album Pieces of a Man. ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ was also included on Scott-Heron’s compilation album, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (1974). The song’s title was originally a popular slogan among the 1960s Black Power movements in the United States. Its lyrics either mention or allude to several television series, advertising slogans and icons of entertainment and news coverage that serve as examples of what ‘the revolution will not’ be or do.

Rock the Joint

First recorded by Jimmy Preston & His Prestonians (R&B #6 1949).
Also recorded by Bill Haley & His Saddlemen (1952).
Other hit version by Bill Haley & His Comets (UK #20 1957).

From the wiki: “‘Rock the Joint’, also known as ‘We’re Gonna Rock This Joint Tonight’, is a boogie song first recorded by various proto-Rock and roll singers, most notably by Jimmy Preston and Bill Haley. Preston’s version has been cited as a contender for being ‘the first Rock and roll record’; Haley’s 1952 recording is widely considered to be one of the first Rockabilly records (along with Haley’s cover of ‘Rocket 88‘). The song’s authorship is credited to Harry Crafton, Wendell ‘Don’ Keane, and Harry ‘Doc’ Bagby (who were musicians contracted to the Gotham label in New York, owned by Ivin Ballen). The song was influenced by earlier R&B recordings such as Wynonie Harris’ 1948 R&B hit ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight‘. Label owner Ballen passed the song on to Jimmy Preston, fresh off a hit with ‘Hucklebuck Daddy’ in 1949, who, with his Prestonians, recorded ‘Rock the Joint’ in Philadelphia in May 1949. Preston’s recording charted R&B Top 10 in 1949.

Unchain My Heart

First recorded by Otis Williams & His Charms (1960).
Hit versions by Ray Charles (US #9/R&B #1 1961), Joe Cocker (US #11/UK #46 1987 |UK #17 1992).

From the wiki: “‘Unchain My Heart’ was written by Bobby Sharp, and first recorded in 1960 by Otis Williams & His Charms. Sharp, a drug addict at the time, sold the song to Teddy Powell for $50. Powell demanded half the songwriting credit. Sharp later successfully fought for the rights to his song. In 1987, he was also able to renew the copyright for his publishing company, B. Sharp Music.

“The song became a hit for Ray Charles when released as a single in late 1961. Accompanied by his Raelettes, Charles’ band also included longtime saxophonist David ‘Fathead’ Newman. The track was further popularized by Joe Cocker when he named his 1987 album after the song. The promotional single nudged the US Top 10 in 1987, and also charted in the UK. Cocker’s recording was re-released in 1992 and, second time around, reached #17 on the UK Singles chart.”

Take Me For a Little While

First recorded by Evie Sands (1965).
Also recorded by Jackie Ross (1965).
Hit versions by Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles (US #89/R&B #36 1966), Vanilla Fudge (US #38 1968).

From the wiki: “In 1965, Evie Sands began her lasting collaboration with the producer/composers Chip Taylor (‘Wild Thing‘, ‘Angel of the Morning‘) and Al Gorgoni with the release of the single ‘Take Me For a Little While’ (written by Trade Martin). But, prior to its release, a test pressing of Sands’ recording was stolen by a Chicago-based producer, shopping it to established Chess Records recording artist Jackie Ross who was coming off the major Pop-Soul hit ‘Selfish One’. Ross – who was unaware of the duplicity involved, and who left Chess shortly afterwards – and her producers loved the song, and recorded, pressed and released the record within 48 hours, beating Sands’ version to the street by a week. The ensuing battle between the two versions killed whatever chance either had to chart nationwide, and the subsequent legal struggle set-back Sands’ career before it had had a chance to get started.

“Sands’ follow-up single, ‘I Can’t Let Go‘, was lost amidst the post ‘Take Me’ chaos, leaving Brit invaders The Hollies clear to score a hit cover in the spring of 1966.

Take Me to the River

First recorded by Al Green (1974).
Hit versions by Syl Johnson (US #48/R&B #7 1975), Talking Heads (US #26 1979).
Also recorded by Foghat (1976), Levon Helm (1978), Brian Ferry (1978).

From the wiki: “‘Take Me to the River’ was written by singer Al Green and guitarist Mabon ‘Teenie’ Hodges, and first recorded by Green in 1974 for the album Al Green Explores Your Mind. Green’s original recording was ranked #117 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. According to producer Willie Mitchell, Green and Mabon Hodges wrote the song while staying in a rented house at Lake Hamilton, Arkansas, for three days in 1973 in order to come up with new material. Green dedicated his performance on the record to ‘…Little Junior Parker, a cousin of mine, he’s gone on but we’d like to kinda carry on in his name.’ According to one critic, ‘Green’s song squares the singer’s early religious convictions with more earthly interests,’ but when Green became a pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in 1976, the singer dropped the song from his repertoire.

Over You

First recorded by Aaron Neville (US #111/R&B #21 1960).
Other hit version by Paul Revere & The Raiders (US #133 1964).

Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)

First recorded by Sylvester & the Hot Band (1973).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #33 1974).
Also recorded by Little Feat (1974, released 2000), Levon Helm (1978).

From the wiki: “‘Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)’ was written by Allen Toussaint, and first recorded in 1973 by Sylvester & the Hot Band for the album Bazaar. Three Dog Night’s version was among several recorded in 1974 but the only recording to reach the US Top 40. Another version of the song was also recorded in 1974 by Little Feat, during the course of the Feats Don’t Fail Me Now recording sessions. This version was not released until 2000, when it was included in the retrospective compilation Hotcakes & Outtakes: 30 Years of Little Feat.”

Darling Baby

First recorded (as “Let’s Talk It Over”) by Lamont Anthony (Dozier) (1960).
Hit version by The Elgins (US #72/R&B #4 1966).

From the wiki: “Lamont Dozier (Lamont Anthony) is best known as a member of Holland–Dozier–Holland, the songwriting and production team responsible for much of the Motown sound and numerous hit records by artists such as Martha and the Vandellas, The Supremes, The Four Tops, and The Isley Brothers. But, Dozier recorded a few unsuccessful records for various Detroit labels (including early Motown subsidiary, Anna) before signing on with Motown in 1962. Anna Records was a short-lived record label, known as a forerunner of Motown, founded in Detroit by sisters Anna and Gwen Gordy (who co-wrote ‘Let’s Talk It Over’) and Roquel Billy Davis in 1959. The label signed such acts as David Ruffin, future lead singer of the Temptations; Joe Tex; Johnny Bristol and his partner Jackey Beavers (the original duo behind the Supremes’ ‘Someday We’ll Be Together‘), and future Motown hit-making songwriter-producer Lamont Dozier (who went by the name Lamont Anthony at the time). Anna Records also hired future Motown star Marvin Gaye as drummer for the label.

Gimme Some Lovin’

Based on “(Ain’t That) A Lot of Love” by Homer Banks (1966).
Hit versions by The Spencer Davis Group (US #7/UK #2 1966), Traffic (US #68 1971), The Blues Brothers (US #18 1980).

From the wiki: “Homer Banks was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and, at the age of 16, formed The Soul Consolidators gospel group which toured around the southern states. After military service, Banks returned to Memphis in 1964 where he began a singing career with the small Genie label where he met Isaac Hayes and David Porter. Soon, Stax founder Estelle Axton hired Banks to work at the record shop attached to the company’s Satellite Studios. He stayed for three years, also recording for the Minit label. One of his Minit recordings, ‘(Ain’t That) A Lot of Love’, provided the basic riff later used by the Spencer Davis Group on their hit ‘Gimme Some Lovin”.”

Love is a Wonderful Thing

Based on “Love is a Wonderful Thing” written and first recorded by The Isley Brothers (US #106 1964).
Hit version by Michael Bolton (US #4/MOR #1/UK #23 1991).

From the wiki: “In 1964, the Isley Brothers recorded a song titled ‘Love Is a Wonderful Thing’. Not included on an Isley Brothers album until years later, the song was first released as a single in 1966 with minimal chart impact. Michael Bolton’s song ‘Love is a Wonderful Thing’ contained similarities to the Isleys’ song that exceeded the title: in 1994, a jury found songwriters Bolton and Andrew Goldmark liable for copyright infringement due to multiple similarities between the two songs. The pair were ordered to pay the Isleys all profits earned from the Bolton single plus 28% of the album profits.”

All These Things

First recorded by Art Neville (1962).
Also recorded by The Uniques (US #97 1966).
Hit version by Joe Stampley (C&W #1 1976).

From the wiki: “‘All These Things’ was written by Allen Toussaint (under the pseudonym of ‘Naomi Neville’) and first recorded by Art Neville in 1962. The most successful chart hit version was recorded by Joe Stampley in 1976, peaking at #1 on the US Country Singles chart. A decade earlier, in 1966, Stampley had recorded a version of the same song with his band, The Uniques, that barely cracked the Billboard Hot 100.”

Rubber Biscuit

First recorded by The Chips (1956).
Hit version by The Blues Brothers (US #37 1979).

From the wiki: “‘Rubber Biscuit’ is a Doo-wop song by The Chips, first recorded in 1956. It was famously covered by The Blues Brothers (on their debut album, Briefcase Full of Blues). Label credit for writing the song was given to Chips lead singer Charles Johnson and Adam R. Levy. Levy, though, was the son of label owner Morris Levy, who was notorious for adding either his or his son’s names to songwriting credits in order to claim partial, or in some cases all composer royalties on songs they did not write. There is no evidence that Morris or Adam ever wrote any songs. When Josie Records heard the song they signed The Chips and the record was issued in September 1956. Although it did not chart, ‘Rubber Biscuit’ became an instant east coast radio favorite.

Respect

Written and originally recorded by Otis Redding (1965).
Hit version by Aretha Franklin (US #1/UK #10 1967).

From the wiki: “Essentially a ballad, ‘Respect’ was written by Otis Redding for Speedo Sims, who intended to record it with his band, the Singing Demons, but was unable to produce a good version. Redding then decided to sing the song himself, which Speedo agreed to. (Redding also promised to credit Speedo on the liner notes, but this never happened.)

Handy Man

First recorded by Sparks of Rhythm (1956, released 1959).
Hit versions by Jimmy Jones (US #2/R&B #3/UK #3 1960), Del Shannon (US #22/UK #36 1964), James Taylor (US #4/MOR #1 1977).

From the wiki: “‘Handy Man’ was written by singer Jimmy Jones and songwriter Otis Blackwell. Recordings by Del Shannon and also The Sparks Of Rhythm list Charles Merenstein as a co-writer, and The Sparks Of Rhythm version on the Apollo 541 single version released in 1959 credits Andrew Barksdale and Merenstein as writers, entirely omitting Jones and Blackwell. ‘Handy Man’ was originally recorded by The Sparks Of Rhythm, a group Jones had been a member of when he wrote it but wasn’t when ‘Handy Man’ was recorded in February 1956.

“In 1959, Jones recorded the song himself, in an arrangement reworked by co-writer Blackwell who also produced the session. After ‘Handy Man’ starting moving up the music charts, Apollo Records released the Sparks of Rhythm version. Jone’s ‘Handy Man’ went to #3 on the R&B charts and #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960, becoming a million seller while the Sparks of Rhythm recording was lost in oblivion. ‘Handy Man’ was a hit again in 1964 for Del Shannon and, yet again (as a slow ballad) in 1977, for James Taylor.”

Merry Christmas, Baby

Co-written and first recorded by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers (R&B #3 1947).
Other popular versions by Chuck Berry (1958), Elvis Presley (1971), Bruce Springsteen (1987), Bonnie Raitt & Charles Brown (1992), Cee Lo Green & Rod Stewart (2012).

From the wiki: “‘Merry Christmas Baby’ is an R&B Christmas standard written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore. The original 1947 version by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers is the definitive version of this song. Notable cover versions include those by Chuck Berry on his 1958 single and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band recorded live at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, and included on the Christmas album A Very Special Christmas, released in 1987. Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers was one of the hottest Blues attractions on the West Coast when their recording of ‘Merry Christmas Baby’ reached position #3 on Billboard’s R & B Juke Box chart during the Christmas of 1947. Guitarist Johnny Moore commandeered an impressive lineup of players for the recording session, including bassist Eddie Williams, guitarist Oscar Moore (then of the King Cole Trio) and, notably, singer/pianist Charles Brown (‘Please Come Home for Christmas‘).”

Please Come Home for Christmas

Co-written and originally recorded by Charles Brown (US #76 1960).
Hit version by Eagles (US #18 1978), Bon Jovi (UK #7 1994).

From the wiki: “‘Please Come Home for Christmas’ is a Christmas song, released in 1960, by the American blues singer and pianist Charles Brown. Hitting Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in December 1961, the tune Brown co-wrote with Gene Redd peaked at position #76. It appeared on the Christmas Singles chart for nine seasons, hitting #1 in 1972. In 1978, the rock band Eagles covered and released the song as a holiday single. Their version peaked at #18 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, the first Christmas song to reach the Top 20 on that chart since Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Paper’ in 1963.”

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