Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Stevie Wonder

La la la la

First recorded by Little Stevie Wonder (1962).
Hit version by The Blendells (US #62 1964).

From the wiki: “The Blendells were a 1960s Mexican American brown-eyed soul group from East Los Angeles, California. They garnered success in 1964 with their Latin-tinged cover of Little Stevie Wonder’s ‘La La La La La’, written by Clarence Paul and first released on Wonder’s 1962 chart-topping album Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius. The Blendell’s 1964 recording peaked at #62 on the national charts, but it was #1 in Phoenix, AZ (where they performed as headliners before 11,000 people), Hawaii, and Los Angeles, at a time when the #2 song was by The Beatles.

“The song was brought to the attention of the band by drummer Ronnie Chipres. The Blendells were playing it at one of their gigs when Eddie Davis heard it and urged them to record it. Lead singer Sal Murillo says the song was recorded in one take. Many in the ‘West Coast East Side’ music community believe The Blendells would have achieved far more success had most of its members not been drafted into the Vietnam War.

Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday

First recorded by Chris Clark (1966).
Hit version by Stevie Wonder (1967 |US #7/R&B #5/UK #2 1969).

From the wiki: “‘Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday’ was written by Ron Miller and Bryan Wells and was first recorded, in 1966, by blue-eyed Soul singer and Motown recording artist Chris Clark. Clark became famous in England as the ‘white Negress’ (a nickname meant as a compliment) because the six-foot platinum blonde toured with fellow Motown artists who were predominantly black. America’s answer to Dustry Springfield, Clark managed to have only one chart hit in the US: ‘Love’s Gone Bad’ peaked at #105 on the Billboard’s Bubbling Under the Hot 100 chart and #41 R&B in 1966. Clark co-wrote the screenplay for the 1972 Diana Ross vehicle Lady Sings the Blues, for which Clark was nominated for an Academy Award. Clark later became an executive for Motown Productions’ film and television division in Los Angeles.

“Another Motown artist, Stevie Wonder, covered ‘Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday’ in 1967 but the recording was not released until 1969 when, during the period of time when Wonder was convalescing from throat problems, Motown began issuing earlier Wonder recordings (including ‘My Cherie Amour’, also recorded in 1967).”

Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)

Co-written and first recorded by Stevie Wonder (1967, released 1977).
Hit versions by Aretha Franklin (US #3/R&B #1 1973 |UK #24 1974), Luther Vandross (US #87/R&B #5 1984), Basia (US #33 1989), Miki Howard (R&B #3/UK #67 1990).

From the wiki: “‘Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)’ was written by Morris Broadnax, Clarence Paul, and Stevie Wonder. The song was originally recorded by Stevie Wonder in 1967, but it was not released until appearing on the 1977 anthology album Looking Back.

“Wonder played Aretha Franklin the song in 1973, and she knew how to ‘take’ someone else’s song (as she had already done with Otis Redding’s ‘Respect‘). Produced by Franklin, Arif Mardin and Jerry Wexler, ‘Until You Come Back’ became Franklin’s second-highest charting Pop song of the ’70s. When her recording reached its highest position at #3, Franklin became the first artist to record singles that peaked at each of #s 1-10 on the Billboard Hot 100. (Marvin Gaye became the first male artist to achieve the ‘occupy-all-10’ when ‘Sexual Healing’ reached #3 in 1982.)

“Other popular recordings of ‘Until You Come Back to Me’ include the Luther Vandross medley of ‘Superstar/Until You Come Back to Me’ (1984), Basia’s 1989 recording for her second album, London Warsaw New York, and Miki Howard’s cover in 1990.”

For Once in My Life

First recorded (as a demo) in 1965 and first released by Jean Dushon (Oct 1966).
Also recorded by Barbara McNair (released Nov 1966), The Four Tops (1967), The Temptations (1967).
Hit versions by Tony Bennett (US #91/EZ #8 1967), Stevie Wonder (US #2/R&B #2 1968).

From the wiki: “‘For Once in My Life’, written by Ron Miller and Orlando Murden, was originally recorded by Jean DuShon, tapped by Miller to demo ‘For Once in My Life’ as he was ‘fine-tuning’ the composition. Miller was so impressed by DuShon’s rendition he released her recording as a single on Chess Records’ Cadet label early in 1966. Motown CEO Berry Gordy found out that Miller, a Motown staff writer, had given the song to an outside artist, so had Miller immediately make the song available for Motown artist Barbara McNair to record and, later, for The Four Tops, The Temptations and, then, Stevie Wonder to record.

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).

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.

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