Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Havana Moon

Written and first recorded by Chuck Berry (B-side 1956).
Hit album version by Santana (1983).

From the wiki: “‘Havana Moon’ was written and first recorded by Chuck Berry in 1956, and released as the B-side to the single ‘You Can’t Catch Me‘. Berry has described Nat ‘King’ Cole as his favorite ballad singer — Berry admired Cole’s perfect diction and elegant delivery. According to Rolling Stone magazine:

Berry’s story of a Cuban woman missing an American woman took its inspiration from playing Nat King Cole’s ‘Calypso Blues’ when Berry was still slugging it out at St. Louis’ Cosmopolitan Club at a time when Latin rhythms were popular. Berry had always admired Cole’s ‘perfect diction’ and delivery (‘He was better than ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ [Frank Sinatra],’ Berry had opined more than once), and decided to write his own song along the same lines after a gigging in New York City [in the mid-1950s], where he had met Cubans for the first time. ‘It is the differences in people that I think gives me a tremendous imagination to create a story for developing a lyric,’ he wrote in his autobiography. ‘I had read, seen or heard in some respect all the situations in the Havana story. Certainly, missing the boat and surely missing the girl had been experienced many times by me.’

“Berry’s recording included Willie Dixon (guitar), Otis Span (piano), and Eddy Hardy (drums).

“Carlos Santana covered ‘Havana Moon’ for his 1983 solo album of the same name. The track features a Booker T. Jones vocal and backing from the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

“According to the liner notes from Rhino Records’s Best of Louie Louie, Richard Berry (no relation), whose 1957 hit ‘Louie, Louie‘ would later become a garage-band staple, has said it was ‘Havana Moon’ that inspired him to to sing ‘Louie Louie’ in a faux West-Indian patois.

“The Rolling Stones recently paid tribute to the song by naming their critically-acclaimed 2016 concert film, shot in Cuba, after the song (even though ‘Havana Moon’ was not a part of the group’s set list).”

Nat “King” Cole, “Calypso Blues” (1951):

Santana & The Fabulous Thunderbirds & Booker T. Jones, “Havana Moon” (1983):

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