Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: R&B

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Written and first recorded by Gil Scott-Heron (1970).
Popular version by Gil Scott-Heron (1971).
See also: “The Lawrence Welk-Hee Haw Counter-Revolution Polka” by Roy Clark (1972)

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. This version of ‘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 original 1949 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 (US #114 1965).
First released 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 single had to chart nationwide – even though as part of the settlement the Ross recording was withdrawn from distribution – and the subsequent legal struggle set-back Sands’ career before it even 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. Although not released from the album as a promotional single, 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 Frankie Miller (1974), Little Feat (1974, released 2000), Levon Helm (1978).

From the wiki: “‘Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)’ was written by Allen Toussaint, and was first recorded in 1973 by Sylvester & the Hot Band for the album Bazaar. In 1974, Toussaint would also produced an album by Frankie Miller, High Life, that included ‘Play Something Sweet’ among six other Toussaint-penned songs featured.

“It was Miller’s version, one among several other productions recorded in 1974, including arrangements by B.J. Thomas and Maria Muldaur, that attracted the immediate interest of Three Dog Night whose 1974 arrangement would became the only release of ‘Play Something Sweet’ to crack the US Top-40.

“Another recording produced in 1974 was by Little Feat, during the course of the Feats Don’t Fail Me Now recording sessions. This version, however, would not be released until 2000 when it was included in the retrospective compilation Hotcakes & Outtakes: 30 Years of Little Feat.

“Levon Helm would record ‘Play Something Sweet’ for his second album independent of The Band, Levon Helm, in 1978.”

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 subsidiary of Liberty Records. One of his Minit recordings, ‘(Ain’t That) A Lot of Love’, co-written by Banks and Deanie Parker, provided the basic riff later used by the Spencer Davis Group on their hit ‘Gimme Some Lovin”.

“‘Gimme Some Lovin” was written by Steve Winwood, Spencer Davis and Muff Winwood (although solely credited to ‘Steve Winwood’ on the UK single label). Winwood recalls that the song was conceived, arranged, rehearsed in just half an hour. At the time, the group were under pressure to come up with another hit, following the relatively poor showing of their previous single, ‘When I Come Home’, written by Jamaican-born musician Jackie Edwards, who had also penned their earlier number one hits, ‘Keep On Running‘ and ‘Somebody Help Me’.

“The original UK version, which is the ‘master’ take of the song, differs in several respects from the version subsequently released in the US on the United Artists label, being slower, lacking the ‘response’ backing vocals in the chorus, some percussion, and the ‘live-sounding’ ambience of the US single.

“‘Gimme Some Lovin” would also be covered by Winwood’s next group, Traffic, in 1971. The Blues Brothers included their recording of the song on the The Blues Brothers movie soundtrack.”

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/CAN #2/NZ #12 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’, was found to contain 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/UK #54 1977).

From the wiki: “‘Handy Man’ was written by singer Jimmy Jones and songwriter Otis Blackwell, and was first recorded by The Sparks Of Rhythm, a group of which Jones was a member. Signed to Apollo Records, ‘Handy Man’ was one of four songs the group recorded for the label in 1956 but nothing happened with the recordings, and Jones left the group 2-1/2 months after the session. (When ‘Handy Man’ was belatedly released in 1959, the Sparks Of Rhythm single [on Apollo 541] credited Andrew Barksdale and Charles Merenstein, who owned Apollo Records at the time, as writers, entirely omitting both Jones and Blackwell.)

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.”

Behind the Mask

Written and first recorded by Yellow Magic Orchestra (1979).
Hit versions by Greg Phillinganes (R&B #77/DANCE #4 1985), Eric Clapton (UK #15 1987).
Also recorded by Michael Jackson (1982, released 2010), Ryuichi Sakamoto & Bernard Fowler (1987), The Human League & Yellow Magic Orchestra (1993).

From the wiki: “‘Behind the Mask’ is a Synth-Pop song by electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra, written by member Ryuichi Sakamoto and first produced as an instrumental in 1978 for a Seiko watch commercial. It was later released in 1979 as part of the band’s Solid State Survivor album with English lyrics added by Chris Mosdell. Sakamoto already had the melody line when he asked poet and lyricist Mosdell to write lyrics, which Mosdell based on the imagery of a Japanese traditional Noh mask, combined with a poem by Irish poet W.B. Yeats called, ‘The Mask’.

Saturday Night Fish Fry

First recorded by Eddie Williams & His Brown Buddies (1949).
Hit version by Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five (US #21/R&B #1 1949).

From the wiki: “‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’ was written by Ellis Walsh and adapted by Louis Jordan (who received co-writing credit), and first recorded in 1949 by Eddie Williams & His Brown Buddies featuring the talk-singing vocals of Walsh. The act had recently had a hit with ‘Broken Hearted’; ‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’ was intended to be the Williams’ band’s followup. However, the acetate for the William/Walsh recording found its way to Louis Jordan’s agent and, as Williams later recalled, ‘They got theirs out there first.’

“Jordan reconfigured the song, taking the song’s ‘hook’ and signing it twice after every other verse. The arrangement was also more propulsive, too; Williams’ shuffle was replaced by a raucous, rowdy jump Boogie-woogie. ‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’ has been called one of the first Rock ‘n roll records. No less than Chuck Berry has said ‘Louis Jordan was the first one that I hear play rock and roll.'”

Something You Got

Written and first recorded by Chris Kenner (1961).
Hit version by Alvin Robinson (US #54/R&B #6 1964).
Also recorded by Moody Blues (1965), Wilson Pickett (1966), Herman Hitson (1966), Bruce Springsteen (1974).

From the wiki: “‘Something You Got’ was written by New Orleans R&B singer and songwriter Chris Kenner (‘Land of 1000 Dances‘, ‘I Like It Like That‘) who released it in 1961 as a single, with ‘Come and See About Me’ on the B-side, and as an album track on the 1966 album Land of 1000 Dances. Covered later with some acclaim by Wilson Pickett (who also covered Kenner’s ‘Land of 1000 Dances’), ‘Something You Got’ charted only with the 1964 version recorded by Alvin Robinson.”

Tweedle-Dee

First recorded by LaVern Baker (US #14/R&B #4 1954).
Other hit versions by Georgia Gibbs (US #2/UK #20 1955), Frankie Vaughn (UK #17 1955), Little Jimmy Osmond (US #59/UK #4 1973).

From the wiki: “‘Tweedlee Dee’ (also ‘Tweedly Dee’ or ‘Tweedle Dee’) is a R&B novelty song with a Latin-influenced riff written by Winfield Scott for LaVern Baker and recorded by her at Atlantic Records’ studio in New York City in 1954. It was her first hit, reaching #4 on Billboard’s R&B chart and #14 on its Pop chart. Although Baker had closely approached a Pop style in this recording, a cover of the song was quickly recorded by Georgia Gibbs on the Mercury Records label. Because a major label like Mercury had a superior distribution system, Atlantic’s independent label could not compete.

“The white cover version used not only the lyrics but closely imitated the style and arrangement of the original and became a Gold Record for Gibbs, thus ruining any chance of Baker’s recording becoming a Top 10 Pop hit. According to Atlantic’s engineer, Tom Dowd, Mercury hired the same arranger, the same musicians and tried to hire the same engineer. Baker attempted to get her congressman to introduce legislation to prevent the copying of arrangements but was unsuccessful.”

Lawdy Miss Clawdy

First recorded by Lloyd Price (R&B #1 1952).
Other hit versions by Elvis Presley (UK #15 1957), Gary Stites (US #47 1960), The Buckinghams (US #41 1967), Mickey Gilley (C&W #3 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ was an R&B song written by New Orleans singer/songwriter Lloyd Price (‘Personality’) that ‘grandly introduced The New Orleans Sound’. It was first recorded by Price in 1952, along with Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino during Price’s first session for Specialty Records. In 1952, Art Rupe, founder of Specialty Records in Los Angeles, came to New Orleans in search of new talent. Local recording studio owner Cosimo Matassa introduced him to Dave Bartholomew, who had co-written and produced many of Fats Domino’s early hit records. Bartholomew invited nineteen year-old Lloyd Price to audition for Rupe at Matassa’s J&M Studio. The accounts differ on what happened next.

“According to Rupe, Price spent too much time rehearsing and Rupe threatened to leave if he did not get it together; Rupe then relented and Price turned out an emotional performance of ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, prompting Rupe to cancel his return flight and to arrange for a full recording session.

Just Because

Written and first recorded (as “A Little Word”) by Shirley & Lee (1956).
Hit version by Lloyd Price (US #29/R&B #3 1956).
Also recorded by John Lennon (1973/1974).

From the wiki: “‘A Little Word’ was written by Leonard Lee, and released as the B-side to Shirley & Lee’s ‘That’s What I’ll Do’ non-charting single released in February 1956 (ahead of their chart-topping ‘Let the Good Times Roll’). Lloyd Price would adapt ‘A Little Word’ into “Just Because’. Price had already recorded one of the biggest-selling songs of the early Rock ‘n roll era, ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, in 1952, but his career momentum was cut short when he was drafted into the Army in 1954. Upon his discharge, Price found he had been replaced at Specialty Records by Little Richard. Price then decided to start his own label – The Kent Recording Company (KRC). Kent Records began in late 1956 with Price as its only artist. The label’s first release was ‘Just Because’, on which Price played piano and produced the session.

A Lover’s Question

Co-written and first recorded by Brook Benton (1958).
Hit versions by Clyde McPhatter (US #6/R&B #1 1958), Del Reeves (C&W #14 1970), Jacky Ward (C&W #3 1978).
Also recorded by Loggins & Messina (1975).

From the wiki: “‘A Lover’s Question’ was written by Brook Benton (‘Rainy Night in Georgia‘) and Jimmy T. Williams, and first recorded by Benton in 1958. That same year, it was covered by Clyde McPhatter (formerly of The Dominoes and founder of The Drifters) and became his most successful solo Pop or R&B release. Only 39 at the time of his death in 1972, McPhatter struggled for years with alcoholism and depression and was, according to Jay Warner’s On This Day in Music History, ‘broke and despondent over a mismanaged career that made him a legend but hardly a success.’

“McPhatter was the first artist in music history to become a double inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame … first as a member of The Drifters and, later, as a solo artist and, as a result, all subsequent double and/or triple inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are said to be members of ‘The Clyde McPhatter Club’.

Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It

Based on “He’s the Greatest Dancer” by Sister Sledge (1979).
Hit version by Will Smith (US #1/R&B #6/UK #3 1998).

From the wiki: “The song samples the Sister Sledge song ‘He’s the Greatest Dancer’ and ‘Movin’ On Up’ by Ja’net Dubois. The ‘mama-uh, mama-uh, mama come closer’ line is a reference to the song ‘Soul Makossa’ by Manu Dibango, specifically the version adapted by Michael Jackson in ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin”’s final bridge.”

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