Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Gladys Knight & The Pips

This Christmas

Co-written and first recorded by Donny Hathaway (1970).
Other popular versions by Gladys Knight & The Pips (1980), Yutaka Yokokura (1988), Gloria Estefan (1993).

From the wiki: “‘This Christmas’ is a well-known Christmas song originally recorded by R&B singer-songwriter Donny Hathaway (under the stage name ‘Donny Pitts’) and released as a single in 1970, peaking that year at #11 on the Billboard Christmas Singles chart. In 1980, Gladys Knight & the Pips recorded ‘This Christmas’ for their holiday album That Special Time of Year. Japanese jazz artist Yutaka Yokokura’s recording was one of several Christmastime songs by various artists included on the 1988 holiday compilation album The GRP All Star Christmas Collection. Gloria Estefan, in 1993, included ‘This Christmas’ on her holiday album Christmas Through Your Eyes.”

I’ve Got to Use My Imagination

Co-written and first recorded by Barry Goldberg (1973).
Hit version by Gladys Knight & The Pips (US #4/R&B #1 1973).
Also recorded by Bob Dylan (bootleg 1984), Joe Cocker (1989), Gerry Goffin, co-writer (1995), Joan Osborne (2007).

From the wiki: “‘I’ve Got to Use My Imagination’ was written by Gerry Goffin (‘Up on the Roof‘, ‘Oh No Not My Baby‘, ‘Saving All My Love for You‘, ‘One Fine Day’) and Barry Goldberg, and was first recorded by Goldberg in 1973 at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio with co-producer Bob Dylan on backing vocals and percussion. Goldberg was the keyboardist behind Dylan at the infamous ‘Dylan goes electric’ Newport Folk Festival performance in 1965, and it was Dylan who helped Goldberg secure the deal with Atlantic Records that resulted in the 1974 release of Barry Goldberg.

Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)

Written and first recorded by Jim Weatherly (1972).
Hit versions by Bob Luman (C&W #7 1973), Gladys Knight & The Pips (US #2/R&B #1/UK #31 1973), David Sanborn (R&B #56 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Neither One of Us’ was written and first recorded by Jim Weatherly, found on his 1972 album Weatherly. Weatherly was an All-American quarterback at the University of Mississippi before choosing songwriting over a football career. Bob Luman charted first with ‘Neither One of Us’, making it into the Top 10 Country in 1973.

Wind Beneath My Wings

First released by Roger Whittaker (1982).
Also recorded by Sheena Easton (1982)
Hit versions by Colleen Hewett (AUS #52 1982), Lou Rawls (US #65/MOR #10/R&B #60 1983), Gladys Knight & The Pips (as “Hero (Wind Beneath My Wings)” US #104/MOR #23/R&B #64 1983), Gary Morris (C&W #4/CAN #10 1983), Bette Midler (US #1/UK #5/AUS #1/NZ #4 1989).

From the wiki: “Wind Beneath My Wings’ (sometimes titled ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings’ and ‘Hero’) was written in 1982 by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley. They recorded a demo of the song, which they gave to musician Bob Montgomery who, then, recorded his own demo version of the song – changing it from the mid-tempo version he was given to a ballad.

“Silbar and Henley then shopped the song to many artists, eventually resulting in Roger Whittaker becoming the first to release the song commercially. It appeared on his 1982 studio album, also titled The Wind Beneath My Wings. It was also recorded by Australian artist Colleen Hewett in 1982, becoming a minor local hit in 1983.

Every Beat of My Heart

First recorded by The Royals (1952).
Hit version by Gladys Knight & The Pips (US #6/R&B #1 1961).

From the wiki: “‘Every Beat of My Heart’ is a rhythm and blues song by Johnny Otis (‘Willie and the Hand Jive‘). It was first recorded in 1954 by his group The Royals (later to be known as Hank Ballard & the Midnighters). The group was first formed as the Four Falcons by the guitarist and songwriter Alonzo Tucker in Detroit in 1952. In the group’s early years, it included Jackie Wilson, Little Willie John, Freddie Pride, and Levi Stubbs, who went on to become stars after they left the group.

“Hank Ballard and Sonny Woods met when they worked on the same Ford auto assembly line in Detroit. They became friends, and when Smith, the group’s lead singer, was drafted, Ballard joined the group to take his place. This was the lineup when the group was discovered by the legendary bandleader, songwriter, and record producer Johnny Otis in 1953. For their recording debut, their name was changed to The Royals (because there was another Detroit-based group with a similar name, the Falcons). Early Royals and Midnighters recordings featuring Booth were doo-wop ballads, including the original version of ‘Every Beat of My Heart’, written by Otis. After a switch to Federal Records in 1953, the group name was changed again (to avoid confusion with label mates, the 5 Royales) to the Midnighters.

“In 1961 Gladys Knight & the Pips recorded the song (credited to ‘The Pips’) for their debut single on the Vee-Jay label. It would be the first of eleven #1 R&B hits, and The Pips’ first #1 Top 40 hit, for the group.”

Midnight Train to Georgia

Written and first recorded (as “Midnight Plane to Houston”) by Jim Weatherly (1972).
Also recorded by Cissy Houston (R&B #45 1973).
Hit version by Gladys Knight & The Pips (US #1/R&B #1/UK #10 1973).

From the wiki: “The song was originally written and performed by Jim Weatherly (‘(You’re the) Best Thing That Ever Happened‘) under the title ‘Midnight Plane to Houston’, recorded for Amos Records.

“‘It was based on a conversation I had with somebody… about taking a midnight plane to Houston,’ Weatherly recalls. ‘I wrote it as a kind of a country song. Then we sent the song to a guy named Sonny Limbo in Atlanta and he wanted to cut it with Cissy Houston (mother of Whitney Houston) … He asked if I minded if he changed the title to ‘Midnight Train to Georgia.’ And I said, I don’t mind. Just don’t change the rest of the song.’ Houston took Weatherly’s song into the R&B chart under the title ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’.

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 1967), Marvin Gaye (US #1 1968), Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969).

From the wiki: “Originally recorded by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles in 1966, ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ was rejected 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’.

(You’re the) Best Thing That Ever Happened

First recorded by Danny Thomas (1973).
First single release by Ray Price (C&W #1 1973).
Also recorded by Dean Martin (1973).
Hit versions by Gladys Knight & The Pips (US #3/R&B #1/UK #7 February 1974), The Persuaders (US #85/R&B #29 March 1974).

From the wiki: “‘You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me’ — also known simply as ‘Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me’ — is a song written by Jim Weatherly, and enjoyed two runs of popularity, each by an artist in a different genre. The song’s first run of popularity, as ‘You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me,’ came in 1973. That’s when Country singer Ray Price took the song to #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart on October 6, 1973.

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