Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Marvin Gaye

California Soul

First recorded by The Messengers (1967).
Hit versions by The 5th Dimension (US #25/R&B #49 1969), Marlena Shaw (1969 |UK #157 2008), Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell (US #56 1970), Riot Act (UK #59 2005).
Also recorded by Edwin Starr (1970), The Undisputed Truth (1971).

From the wiki: “‘California Soul’ was a Pop-Soul song written by Nick Ashford & Valeria Simpson and first recorded in 1967 by Motown’s Monkees-inspired group, The Messengers, released as the B-side of the group’s ‘Window Shopping’ single. It would also be covered in 1967 by Motown superstars Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell – one of Tammi’s final recordings before being diagnosed with brain cancer – but would go unreleased until 1970 when it became the celebrated duo’s final single, released following Tammi’s death in March 1970.

“‘California Soul’ first charted as a single recorded in late 1968 by The 5th Dimension. UK singer Marlena Shaw covered the song the following year for her album Spice of Life. Shaw’s version originally was not released as a single in the US but became a staple of the UK Northern Soul scene. Following its use in a TV advert in 2008, the song’s re-release became Shaw’s best-known recording in the UK. UK group Riot Act charted in 2005 with their recording of ‘California Soul’. Apart from The Messengers and Marvin Gaye & Tami Terrell, other Motown recording artists who also recorded covers of ‘California Soul’ included Edwin Starr, in 1970; and The Undisputed Truth, in 1971. ”

Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)

Originally recorded by Marvin Gaye (1963).
Hit version by Paul Young (US #70/UK #1 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)’ is a song written by Marvin Gaye, Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield, and first recorded by Gaye in 1962 as an album track on That Stubborn Kinda Fellow. Years later, Paul Young’s version of the song was a UK #1 single for three weeks in July 1983. The song fared less well on the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at #70, but was later used in the 1986 film Ruthless People and its accompanying soundtrack album.”

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’.

That’s the Way Love Is

Originally recorded by The Isley Brothers (US #125 1967).
Hit version by Marvin Gaye (US #7/R&B #2 1969).

From the wiki: “Co-writer Norman Whitfield produced both recording sessions for Motown, taking his up-tempo Isley Brothers arrangement and turning it into a slowed-down psychedelic Soul opus for Marvin Gaye.”

Sunny

First released by Mieko Hirota (1965).
Also recorded by Dave Pike (1966), Chris Montez (1966), Marvin Gaye (1966), Stevie Wonder (1968).
Hit versions by Bobby Hebb (US #2/R&B #3/UK #12 1966), Boney M. (UK #3/NETH #1/GER #1 1976).


(Live performance, above, ca. 1968-1969)

From the wiki: “Bobby Hebb’s breakthrough as a songwriter would be born of tragedy. In November 1963, already upset over the JFK assassination, Bobby then learned that his older brother, Harold, had been stabbed to death the same night in a fight outside a Nashville nightclub. Out of his depression, Hebb began to write. Using past hurts (‘Yesterday my life was filled with rain’) and inspired by the anonymous smile of a complete stranger (‘You smiled and it really, really eased the pain’), ‘Sunny’ came into being. The upbeat number was included in Hebb’s nightclub act at his gig at the New York club ‘Brandy’s.’ The audiences responded positively as did record producer Jerry Ross (‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me‘), who included the song on a demo record that found its way to Japan.

Islands in the Stream

First recorded (as a demo) by The Bee Gees (1983).
Hit version by Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers (US #1/C&W #1/UK #7/CAN #1/AUS #1/NZ #2 1983).
Sampled (as “Ghetto Supastar”) by Pras (1998).

From the wiki: “‘Islands in the Stream’ is a song written by the Bee Gees whose title is named after the Ernest Hemingway novel. The Gibbs originally wrote the song for Marvin Gaye in an R&B style, changing it later for the Kenny Rogers album, Eyes That See in the Dark.

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