Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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I Heard It Through the Grapevine

First recorded by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (1966, released 1968).
Hit versions by Gladys Knight & The Pips (US #2/R&B #1 1967), Marvin Gaye (US #1/R&B #1/UK #1/CAN #8 1968), Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969).

From the wiki: “First recorded by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles in 1966, ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ was rejected for release by Motown owner Berry Gordy, who told Barrett Strong (co-writer) and Norman Whitfield (producer and co-writer) that the song was ‘too bluesy’ and that it lacked ‘hit potential’. Whitfield produced another version, with Marvin Gaye, in 1967 with Gordy also rejected. Even the Isley Brothers are said to have taken a crack at it (see below). It wasn’t until the song was given to the label’s newest group signing, Gladys Knight & The Pips, that Gordy finally agreed to release ‘Grapevine’.

“Released to radio in October 1967, Knight’s recording eventually went Top 5 – peaking at #2 in the Billboard chart. Whitfield wanted Gordy to release Gaye’s ‘Grapevine’ as a single, but Gordy didn’t want to release another version after the Pips had already made a hit out of it. Whitfield added “Grapevine” to Gaye’s new album, In the Groove, where it gained the attention of radio disc jockeys. Gordy finally agreed to its release as a single in November 1968. And the rest, as they say, is history.

“Gaye’s recording of ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ went to the top of the Billboard Pop Singles chart for seven weeks, from December 1968 to January 1969, and became for a time the biggest hit single on the Motown label. It also topped the R&B chart (for seven weeks) and the UK Singles chart (for three weeks).

“Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded an 11-minute interpretation for their 1970 album, Cosmo’s Factory,. It is considered a heritage rock classic.

“The first known recording of ‘Grapevine’ is with The Miracles on August 6, 1966, though there may also have been am earlier recording with the Isley Brothers, or that Whitfield at least had intended to record the song first with them. However, a track has not turned up – some Motown historians believe that a session may have been scheduled but cancelled. The Miracles’ version was not released as a single due to Berry Gordy’s veto during Motown’s weekly quality control meetings; Gordy advised Whitfield and Strong to create a stronger single. The Miracles version later appeared on their 1968 Special Occasion album – where fans assumed it was a cover of Knight’s and Gaye’s hits – but was, in reality, the original recording.”

Gladys Knight & The Pips, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1967):

Marvin Gaye, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” monaural single (1968):

Creedence Clearwater Revival, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1969):

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