Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

Help support this site! Consider clicking an ad from time to time. Thanks!

« Go Back to Previous Page «  

Category: Soul

Starting All Over Again

First recorded by Mel & Tim (US #19/R&B #4 1972).
Other hit version by Hall & Oates (MOR #10/CAN #11 1991).
Also recorded by Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole (1996).

From the wiki: “‘Starting All Over Again’ was written by cousins Melvin McArthur Hardin and Hubert Timothy McPherson (‘Backfield in Motion’, 1969), and recorded by them in 1972. Released as a single after the duo switched record labels, from Bamboo to Stax, the song peaked at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on the Soul singles chart, and it would become the title track of the second album, Starting All Over Again.

“‘Starting All Over Again’ was covered by ‘blue-eyed soul’ duo Hall and Oates for their album Change of Season. Recorded in 1990 for the album but not released as a promotional single until 1991, their cover arrangement peaked at #10 on the Adult Contemporary singles chart but failed to reach the Top-40. It did go Top-10 in Canada.”

Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely

First recorded by Ronnie Dyson (US #60/R&B #29 1973).
Other hit version by The Main Ingredient (US #10/R&B #8/CAN #7 1974).

From the wiki: “‘Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely’ was written by Bobby Eli, John Freeman and Vinnie Barrett and was first made popular in 1973 by Ronnie Dyson. The Main Ingredient’s version of the song, featuring Cuba Gooding, Sr., on lead vocal, was released in 1974, becoming a US and Canadian Top-10 pop and R&B hit.”

Patches (Clarence Carter)

First recorded by Chairmen of the Board (1970).
Hit versions by Clarence Carter (US#4/R&B #2/UK #2 1970), Ray Griff (C&W #26 1970).
Also recorded by The Rudies (1970), George Jones & B.B. King (1994).

From the wiki: “‘Patches’ (sometimes known as ‘Patches (I’m Depending On You)’), a Country-Soul song, was written by General Johnson and Ron Dunbar. The song tells a story about how a boy born and raised in poverty in Alabama ‘on a farm way back up in the woods’ took over responsibility for his family from his dying father.

“‘Patches’ was included on Chairmen of the Board’s first album, The Chairmen of the Board (later reissued as Give Me Just a Little More Time), and was the B-side of the group’s July 1970 single, ‘Everything’s Tuesday’, their third chart hit. The best-known recording was the 1970 hit production by Clarence Carter. It won the 1971 Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Song.

The Motown Song

Written and first recorded by Larry John McNally (1986).
Hit version by Rod Stewart ft. The Temptations (US #10/MOR #3/UK #10 1991).

From the wiki: “‘The Motown Song’ was written by Larry John McNally and was originally recorded by McNally in 1986 for the Quicksilver movie soundtrack. In 1991, Rod Stewart covered ‘The Motown Song’ with the Temptations, for Stewart’s album Vagabond Heart.”

Now That We Found Love

First recorded by The O’Jays (1973).
Hit versions by Third World (US #47/#9 R&B/UK #10 1977), Heavy D & the Boyz (US #11/R&B #5/UK #2/AUS #6/NETH #2/NOR #10 1991).

From the wiki: “‘Now That We Found Love’ (also known as ‘Now That We’ve Found Love’) was written by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff (‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’, ‘Me and Mrs. Jones’, ‘Love Train’), and was first recorded by The O’Jays in 1973 for their album Ship Ahoy.

“Subsequent cover versions have included a 1977 reggae-flavored dance hit by Third World, and a worldwide breakthrough rap hit in 1991 for Heavy D.”

Harry Hippie

Written and first recorded by Jim Ford (1970).
Hit version by Bobby Womack (R&B #8 1973).

From the wiki: “‘Harry Hippie’ was written by Jim Ford for a self-titled album scheduled to be issued by Capitol in the fall of 1970. But, Ford had a falling out with the label and the album was shelved. ‘Harry Hippie’ was written by Ford in tribute to Bobby Womack’s laid-back brother, bass guitarist Harry Womack. ‘Harry Hippie’ would, after Womack recorded it in 1973, become a Top-10 R&B hit for Womack.

Girl Watcher

First recorded (as “Boy Watcher”) by Ginger Thompson (recorded January 1968, released August 1968).
Hit version by The O’Kaysions (first released April 1968 |US #5/R&B #6 June 1968).

From the wiki: “‘Girl Watcher’ was written by Buck Trail (a pseudonym used by songwriter Ron Killette) and was first recorded as ‘Boy Watcher’ in January, 1968 by Atlanta, GA, singer Ginger Thompson for 1-2-3 Records but was not released until August 1968.

“The song was also given to The O’Kaysions, a pop/blue-eyed soul group originally from Wilson, North Carolina, who had first formed in 1959 under the name The Kays, who recorded their production of ‘Girl Watcher’ in April 1968 for North Carolina-based North State Records. (This can be determined, somewhat, by the presence of only Trail’s name as songwriter on the Thompson release vs. the inclusion of O’Kaysions’ group member and manager Wayne Pittman on the latter’s releases.)

“However, by the time ABC Records chose to distribute the O’Kaysions’ April 1968 recording nationally, the original master tape had gone missing. So, a ‘needle-drop’ of the O’Kaysions’ regionally-issued North State label recording was used and that recording was then duplicated by ABC to create a nationally-distributed single in June 1968. ‘Girl Watcher’ was the O’Kaysions’ only chart hit.”

A Brand New Me

First recorded by Jerry Butler (1969).
Hit version by Dusty Springfield (US #24/MOR #3 1970).

From the wiki: “Written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Jerry Butler, ‘A Brand New Me’ was first recorded by Butler in 1969. Dusty Springfield would cover the song later that year, adding it as the title track to her album A Brand New Me. It is Springfield’s only album on which every song was produced by the same production team: Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Gamble also co-wrote every track on the album, and the Gamble-Huff duo would go on to have success with many groups and singers in the 1970s, including Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, The O’Jays, MFSB and The Three Degrees. The single, ‘A Brand New Me’, would be Springfield’s last Top 40 chart success until her 1987 collaborations with Pet Shop Boys (‘What Have I Done to Deserve This?’) and Richard Carpenter (‘Something in Your Eyes’).”

Leaving Here

Co-written and first recorded by Eddie Holland (US #76/R&B #27 1964).
Other hit version by Pearl Jam (ROCK #24/ALT #31 1996).
Also recorded by The Who (1965), The Birds (1965), Motörhead (1977).

From the wiki: “‘Leaving Here’ was written in 1963 by Motown songwriters Holland–Dozier–Holland (‘Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)‘, ‘Heat Wave’, ‘I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)’), and was originally released as a single in December 1963 by H-D-H lyricist Eddie Holland. Pearl Jam recorded the song for the 1996 Home Alive compilation album, released to fund women’s self-defense classes, and charted on the Rock and Alternative Rock music charts. The song would later be included on the band’s 2003 Lost Dogs double album of B-sides and rarities.

You Could Have Been a Lady

First recorded by Hot Chocolate (UK #22 1971).
Other hit version by April Wine (US #32/CAN #2 1972).

From the wiki: “The band was originally named ‘Hot Chocolate Band’ by Mavis Smith, who worked for the Apple Corps press office. This was quickly shortened to Hot Chocolate by Mickie Most. The group started their recording career making a reggae version of John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace a Chance’ (see below); told that he needed permission before releasing the song, band founder Errol Brown contacted Apple Records, discovered that John Lennon liked his version, and the group was subsequently signed to Apple Records. The link, however, was short-lived as The Beatles were starting to break up, and the Apple connection soon ended.

“Undeterred, Hot Chocolate signed with the RAK record label and began releasing tracks that became hits, such as ‘Love Is Life’ (UK #6 1970), ‘You Could Have Been a Lady’ (UK #22 1971) and ‘Brother Louie‘ (1973). ‘You Could Have Been a Lady’ would later be covered in 1972 by Canadian rock band April Wine, who would score with it the most successful Canadian single of their group career.”

Every Little Bit Hurts

First recorded by Brenda Holloway (1962).
Hit versions by Brenda Holloway (US #13/R&B #3 1964), The Spencer Davis Group (UK #41/CAN #5 1965), “Shirley” Strachan (AUS #3 1976).
Also recorded by The Clash (1980, released 1991), Alicia Keys (2005).

From the wiki: “‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ was a 1964 hit single for Motown soul singer Brenda Holloway (‘You’ve Made Me So Very Happy‘), written by Ed Cobb (‘Tainted Love‘) of The Four Preps (‘Love of the Common People‘). It was first recorded by the then-16-year old Holloway in 1962 for the Del-Fi record label without any chart impact.

“After being signed to Motown Records, Holloway was reluctant to re-record the song and later said she was upset during the sessions; several takes were recorded before producers felt that Holloway had hit her mark. Released in April 1964, three months before Holloway’s eighteenth birthday, the song peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and charted Top-5 on the R&B chart.”


First recorded by Paul Kelly (unreleased 1973).
Hit versions by Jackie Moore (R&B #92 1978), Karla Bonoff (US #19/MOR #3 1982), Ronnie McDowell (C&W #10 1983).
Also recorded by Paul Kelly (1993).

From the wiki: “‘Personally’ was first recorded in 1973 by its composer Paul Kelly, with Gene Page producing, for Kelly’s Don’t Burn Me album. However, the track was not released at that time. Kelly re-recorded the song in 1993 for the album Gonna Stick and Stay (see above).

“The first released version of ‘Personally’ was recorded in 1978 by R&B singer Jackie Moore, best-known for her gold single 1970 song ‘Precious, Precious’ (#30, 1971). Moore’s single, ‘Personally’, peaked at a disappointing #92 on the R&B chart, not even charting on the Billboard Hot 100.

“The song was later covered in 1982 with greater success by Karla Bonoff (‘Tell Me Why‘, ‘All My Life‘) and charted in the US Top 20. A 1983 cover by country singer Ronnie McDowell charted Top 10 on the US Country Singles chart.”

Bring It Home (And Give It To Me)

Written and first recorded (as “Lay It On Me Right Now”) by Na Allen (1970).
Hit version by Hot Sauce (US #96/R&B #35 1972).

From the wiki: “‘Bring It Home (And Give It To Me)’ – not to be confused with the Sam Cooke song, ‘Bring It Home to Me’ – was written by Na Allen, Denise LaSalle’s brother, and recorded first by him in 1970 under the song’s original title, ‘Lay It On Me Right Now’. Hot Sauce (in reality, Rhonda Washington) was discovered by Irene Perkins, wife of soul singer and Detroit radio disc-jockey Al Perkins, and the 1972 cover titled ‘Bring It Home (And Give It To Me)’ was the group’s first recording for the fledgling Volt record label.”

(We’ll Be) United

First recorded by The Intruders (US #78/R&B #14 1966).
Hit version by Peaches & Herb (US #46/R&B #11 1968).

From the wiki: “The Intruders were one of the first groups to have hit songs under the direction of songwriters and record producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff (Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, The O’Jays), they had a major influence on the development of Philadelphia soul. In 1965, when Gamble and Huff first contemplated leaving the Cameo-Parkway record label to risk launching their own label, the vocalists on which they pinned all their hopes and venture capital were The Intruders.

“Gamble and Huff’s success with The Intruders helped convince Columbia Records to grant them the money to launch Philadelphia International. ‘(We’ll Be) United’ was the first charting song for The Intruders, peaking at #14 on the Billboard Soul chart, and #78 on the Billboard Hot 100, in 1966.

You Better Move On

Written and originally recorded by Arthur Alexander (US #24/R&B #27 1962).
Other hit versions by The Rolling Stones (UK EP #1 1964), Billy “Crash” Craddock (C&W #37 1972), George Jones & Johnny Paycheck (C&W #18 1980).

From the wiki: “‘You Better Move On’ was written and first recorded by Arthur Alexander (and produced by FAME’s Rick Hall) in 1962. It peaked at #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April, 1962.

“Although labeled as a ‘country-soul’ singer-songwriter, Alexander is the only songwriter whose songs have been covered by the Beatles (‘Anna (Go to Him)‘), the Rolling Stones (‘You Better Move On’), and Bob Dylan (who recorded ‘Sally Sue Brown’ on his 1988 LP Down in the Groove). Elvis Presley also covered Alexander’s original 1972 recording of ‘Burning Love‘, Presley’s last Top-10 hit (kept from #1 by Chuck Berry’s ‘My Ding-a-Ling‘).

Let Love Come Between Us

First recorded by The Rubber Band (1966).
Hit version by James & Bobby Purify (US #23/R&B #18 1967).

From “‘Let Love Come Between Us” was written by Joe Sobotka and John Wyker, of the Alabama group The Rubber Band, and first recorded by the group in 1966. The song would later be covered by James and Bobby Purify (‘I’m Your Puppet‘) and achieve chart success a year later. The Rubber Band was fronted by Johnny Townsend, who later had a hit with ‘Smoke From A Distant Fire’ as half of the Sanford-Townsend Band.

“In an odd, unfortunate twist of fate, Townsend recalls, ‘Our version [of ‘Let Love Come Between Us’] on Columbia Records was considered a turntable hit in that it went to #1 on the radio in 20 major cities in the US. But, Columbia didn’t get any records in the stores because they didn’t even know it was their record. We were such novices in the business that it got by us and was gone before we knew it. It did however give us a taste of success and we wanted more.'”

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.

Hope That We Can Be Together Soon

First recorded as “Let’s Get Together Soon” by Dusty Springfield (1970).
Hit version by Sharon Paige with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (US #42/R&B #1 1975).

From the wiki: “‘Hope That We Can Be Together Soon’ was written by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff and was first recorded by Dusty Springfield (as ‘Let’s Get Together Soon’) for her 1970 album A Brand New Me (which was also produced by Gamble and Huff) but not released as a single. It scored a hit, though. when in 1975 it was covered and released by Sharon Paige with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes as the second promotional single from the album To Be True.”

(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman

Written and first recorded (as a demo) by Carole King (1967).
Hit versions by Aretha Franklin (US #8/R&B #2 1967), Celine Dion (MOR #31 1995), Mary J. Blige (R&B #39/UK #23 1995).
Also recorded by Carole King (1971).

From the wiki: “Written by the celebrated partnership of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, ‘You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)’ was inspired by Atlantic Records co-owner and producer Jerry Wexler.

“As recounted in his autobiography, Wexler, a student of African-American musical culture, had been mulling over the concept of the ‘natural man’, when he drove by Goffin on the streets of New York. Wexler shouted out to him he wanted a ‘natural woman’ song for Aretha Franklin’s next album. In thanks, Goffin and King granted Wexler a co-writing credit.

“Franklin’s recording features all three Franklin sisters, including Erma and Carolyn singing backup. Erma had a record deal in the ’60s, but didn’t have much success. Her biggest hit was her 1967 original recording of ‘Piece Of My Heart‘, made famous by Janis Joplin.”

It’s in His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)

First recorded by Merry Clayton (1963).
Also recorded by Ramona King (1963).
Hit versions by Betty Everett (US #6/R&B #1 1963 |UK #38 1968), The Searchers (1964), Bootleg Family Band (AUS #5 1974), Linda Lewis (UK #6 1975), Kate Taylor (US #49 1977), Cher (US #33/UK #1/IRE #1/SPN #1/NOR #1 1990).
Also performed by Linda Ronstadt & Phoebe Snow (1979).

From the wiki: “‘It’s in His Kiss’ was first rejected by the premier girl-group of the early 1960s, the New York-based Shirelles, and was instead first recorded in Los Angeles by Merry Clayton as her first credited single. Clayton had previously provided an uncredited female vocal to the hit ‘You’re the Reason I’m Living’ recorded by Bobby Darin as his debut on Capitol Records, and Darin had subsequently arranged for Clayton herself to be signed to Capitol.

“Clayton recorded ‘It’s in His Kiss’ – whose composer Rudy Clark was a staff writer for TM Music which Bobby Darin headed – in a session produced by Jack Nitzsche with The Blossoms (‘Stoney End‘, ‘He’s a Rebel‘) as chorale: the single was released June 10 1963 with no evident chart success.

Nobody But Me

First recorded by The Isley Brothers (US #106 1962).
Hit version by The Human Beinz (US #8 1968).

From the wiki: “‘Nobody but Me’ was written by O’Kelly, Rudolph, and Ronald Isley of the Isley Brothers and was first recorded by The Isley Brothers. Released in 1962, as the second single follow-up to ‘Twist and Shout‘, it failed to make the Top 40 or R&B charts.

“The most commercially successful and widely-known version to date is the 1968 US Top 10 garage rock hit by The Human Beinz, their only chart success. Dave Marsh, in his Book of Rock Lists named the version by the Human Beinz ‘The most negative song to hit the Top 40,’ noting that the word ‘no’ is sung over 100 times in a mere 2:16. Marsh also counts the word ‘nobody’ 46 times more.”

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 “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.

Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy

First recorded by The Sensational Epics (1968).
Hit versions by The Tams (US #61/R&B #26 1968 |UK #32 1970), Sonia (UK #22 1991 |MOR #13 1992).
Also recorded by Booker T. & the MGs (1968), The Gentle Touch (1968).

From the wiki: “‘Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy’, co-written by Ray Robert Whitley and J.R. Cobb (‘Spooky‘, ‘Do It or Die’), was first recorded by The Sensational Epics in 1968.

“The Sensational Epics were formed in 1963 as a five-piece group based in Columbia, South Carolina, at first playing primarily for high school and college fraternity & sorority functions, performing what became now known as Carolina ‘Beach Music’. The group’s first national release on Cameo was ‘I’ve Been Hurt’. In 1968, the group recorded “Be Young …”, produced by co-writer Whitley for Warner Bros. Records, with no apparent chart success.

Sharing the Night Together

First recorded by Arthur Alexander (R&B #92 1976).
Also recorded by Lenny LeBlanc (1976).
Hit version by Dr. Hook (US #6/C&W #50 1978 |UK #43 1980).

From the wiki: “‘Sharing the Night Together’ was written by Ava Aldridge and Eddie Struzick, and was first recorded by Arthur Alexander (‘You Better Move On‘, ‘Anna‘, ‘Burning Love‘) in 1976. In almost simultaneous release in 1976 was a version recorded by Lenny Leblanc (LeBlanc & Carr, ‘Falling’), with co-writer Struzick on background vocals, but which had no chart impact.

“‘Sharing the Night Together’ was later a Top 10 single for Dr. Hook off the 1978 album Pleasure & Pain.”