Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Levon Helm

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.

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.”

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