Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Message to Michael

Originally recorded (as “Message To Martha”) by Jerry Butler (1962).
Also recorded by Marlene Dietrich (1964), Lou Johnson (as “Kentucky Bluebird” US #104 1964).
Hit versions by Adam Faith (UK #12 1964), Dionne Warwick (US #8/R&B #5/CAN #6 1966).

From the wiki: “The song was first recorded as ‘Message to Martha’ by Jerry Butler in the 1962 session in New York City which produced Butler’s hit ‘Make It Easy on Yourself’ (also written by Bacharach-David), but was not released until December 1963. Marlene Dietrich recorded a German version of the song in 1964, singing to the instrumental track of the Butler original (with augmentations); Dietrich’s version was entitled ‘Kleine Treue Nachtigall’ (‘faithful little nightingale’).

“In 1964 Bacharach had Lou Johnson record the song as ‘Kentucky Bluebird’: this version reached Billboard’s ‘Bubbling Under the Hot 100’ chart at #104 that fall. Johnson’s single was also released in the UK where it was swiftly covered by Adam Faith as ‘Message to Martha (Kentucky Bluebird)’, peaking at #12 on the UK Singles chart in November 1964.

“Warwick’s association with the song began when she recommended it as a concert number to Sacha Distel, with whom she was headlining at the Paris Olympia Theatre in 1966. Jacques Denjean prepped a backing track to which Distel was to sing the song in concert; when Distel decided against performing the song, Warwick considered availing herself of the prepped instrumental track to record the song herself. Both Burt Bacharach and Hal David, when contacted by Warwick, were opposed to her singing what they maintained (in its English version) was a man’s song. David also mentioned to Warwick that the only male name that could be subbed for ‘Martha’ was ‘Michael’, a name David disliked. Warwick took David’s comment as a suggestion, recorded “Message to Michael” in a Paris recording studio, and added her vocals to the track prepped for Distel. Warwick would say that the most difficult part of the recording session was getting the French background vocalists to pronounce ‘Michael’ correctly.

“In his 1968 book, What the World Needs Now and Other Love Lyrics, Hal David emphatically admitted his misgivings over Warwick recording ‘Message to Michael’ proved ill-founded, indeed stating ‘Dionne’s vocal was so brilliant that it was obvious we had subconsciously written the song for her even while we thought we were writing it for a man’.”

Marlene Dietrich, “Kleine Treue Nachtigall” (1964):

Lou Johnson, “Kentucky Bluebird” (1964):

Adam Faith, “Message to Martha (Kentucky Bluebird)” (1964):

Dionne Warwick, “Message to Michael” (1966):