Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

Shop Around

First recorded by The Miracles (first recording released September 1960).
Hit versions by The Miracles (re-recording released October 1960 US #2/R&B #1/CAN #11), Captain & Tennille (US #4/MOR #1/CAN #4 1976).

From the wiki: “The original record label for ‘Shop Around’ credits Bill ‘Smokey’ Robinson as the writer, with Motown founder Berry Gordy as producer. Robinson claims he wrote the song ‘in thirty minutes’ and that it had been intended originally for another Motown singer, Barrett Strong (‘Money (That’s What I Want)‘), but that Gordy thought the song was more suited to the Miracles. Subsequent labels list both Robinson and Gordy as co-writers.

“‘Shop Around’ was initially released (as Tamla 53034) locally, in Detroit and the surrounding area, but not intentionally. Motown’s history of the song relates that after the first pressings were distributed to radio stations and record stores ‘in September 1960, [Gordy] couldn’t sleep, worried that it wasn’t good enough (‘too slow, not enough life’). He called Smokey in the middle of the night, and had him bring all the Miracles to the studio at 3 a.m. to lay down a new, slightly faster take of the song. Gordy himself played piano.’

More Love

First recorded by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles (US #23/R&B #13 1967).
Other hit version by Kim Carnes (US #10/MOR #6 1980).

From Songfacts.com: “In the book Where Did Our Love Go?: The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound, Smokey Robinson explained that he wrote ‘More Love’ for his wife Claudette, and it’s one of his most personal songs. Claudette had a series of miscarriages and gave birth to twins who were stillborn. She felt like she was letting Smokey down, and he wrote this song to let her know how he felt. ‘I wanted to reassure her that I was cool no matter what happened, because I still had her,’ Robinson explained. Claudette had left The Miracles a few years earlier, but she returned to sing backup on this track.

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’.

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