Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Barbara Lewis

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).

https://youtu.be/WX3AXzu7dP8

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.’

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.’

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