Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Delta Dawn

Co-written and first recorded by Alex Harvey (1971).
Also recorded by Dianne Davidson (1972), Bette Midler (1973).
Hit versions by Tanya Tucker (C&W #6/CAN #3 1972), Helen Reddy (US #1/MOR #1/CAN #1/AUS #1 1973).

From the wiki: “‘Delta Dawn’ was written by written by former child rockabilly star Larry Collins and songwriter Alex Harvey (not the Scottish musician of The Incredible Alex Harvey Band fame). The first recording of ‘Delta Dawn’ was made by Harvey for his eponymous album released in November 1971. Released as a single by Capitol Records, Harvey’s ‘Delta Dawn’ did not chart. Although Harvey opened for Helen Reddy – his Capitol label mate – at the Troubadour in January 1972, Reddy made no apparent connection with any of Harvey’s compositions at that time.

“Dianne Davidson, who sang backup on Harvey’s recording was the first artist to record a cover. First released as the B-side to ‘Sympathy’, ‘Delta Dawn’ was re-released as an A-side single in April 1972, garnering a Billboard magazine Country Pick Hit recommendation but it did not chart.

“Tracy Nelson, who also sang backup on Harvey’s recording, performed ‘Delta Dawn’ in her live act. After hearing Nelson sing ‘Delta Dawn’ at the Bottom Line in New York City, Bette Midler added the song too to her repertoire but would not record the song until 1973 (see below).

“Nashville-based producer Billy Sherrill heard Midler sing ‘Delta Dawn’ on a The Tonight Show appearance in 1972 and wanted to sign her to Epic Records and have her record the song. But, finding out that Midler was already signed to Atlantic Records, Sherrill instead cut the song with Tanya Tucker who was newly signed to Epic and Tucker’s version was released April 1972. Tucker’s cover peaked at #6 on the Country Singles chart that spring.

“In the meantime Bette Midler had recorded ‘Delta Dawn’ in early 1973 for her The Divine Miss M debut album from which her bluesy version was planned as the lead single. The June 1973 single release of Helen Reddy’s version, recorded after Midler’s cover but due to be released two days before Bette’s, necessitated an amendment of Midler’s release so that the original B-side, ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ (itself a cover of The Andrews Sisters 1941 hit), was shopped instead as the A-side to radio, becoming a Top Ten hit.

“Helen Reddy’s producer (and long-time Neil Diamond collaborator), Tom Catalano, prepped an instrumental backing of ‘Delta Dawn’, virtually replicating that of Tucker’s single (including the cold open), and – despite Catalano production relationship with Helen Reddy – offered it first to Barbra Streisand to cover. Upon Streisand’s refusal, Catalano then had Reddy add her vocal to the backing track already recorded. Reddy’s version entered the Top Ten in August 1973 on its way to #1, on 15 September 1973. It also topped the charts in Australia and Canada.”

Dianne Daivdson, “Delta Dawn” (1972):

Tanya Tucker, “Delta Dawn” (1972):

Bette Midler, “Delta Dawn” (1973):

Helen Reddy, “Delta Dawn” (1973):

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