Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Originally recorded by Gabor Szabo (R&B #43 1971).
Hit version by George Benson (US #63/MOR #13/R&B #65 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Breezin” was written by Bobby Womack (‘It’s All Over Now‘) and first recorded by Hungarian Jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo. Szabó was famous for mixing jazz, pop-rock and his native Hungarian music. He began playing guitar at the age of 14, inspired by jazz music he heard on the Voice of America broadcasts. He escaped Hungary and moved to the United States in 1956, a year of the attempted revolt against Soviet-dominated Communist rule, and attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston.

“In 1958, Szabo was invited to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival. Szabó performed with the Chico Hamilton quintet from 1961 to 1965 and, beginning in 1966, he recorded a well-received span of albums under his own name on the Impulse! label.

“During a 1977 engagement at the Catamaran Hotel, San Diego, he complained to the audience about George Benson’s success with ‘Breezin”. Szabo indicated that he had recorded that song before Benson and that Benson had, more or less, stolen the arrangement from him. Szabo’s version of ‘Breezin” can be heard on the High Contrast album he recorded with song composer and guitarist Bobby Womack. (Perhaps not so coincidentally, producer Tommy LiPuma helmed both the Szabo and the Benson recording sessions.) Released as a single, ‘Breezin” peaked at #43 on the Billboard Soul Singles chart in October, 1971.

“‘Breezin”, from which George Benson derived the title of his 1976 album and which was the album’s first single release, marked the beginning of Benson’s most successful commercial period. The album topped the Pop, Jazz and R&B album charts in Billboard, spun off two hit singles (‘This Masquerade‘, Breezin”), and became the first Plantinum jazz album (later, triple Platinum). The album won multiple prizes at the 1977 Grammy Awards,including Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical), as well as a nomination as Album of the Year.

“Trivia: Carlos Santana considered three guitarists to be his most influential musical mentors: Bola Sete, Wes Montgomery … and Gabor Szabo.”

Gabor Szabo, “Breezin'” live TV performance, Club Date, KPBS-TV; San Diego: (1977):

George Benson, “Breezin'” (1976):

George Benson with Carlos Santana, on “Breezin'” on The Midnight Special (1976):

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