Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Barbra Streisand

Free the People

Written and first recorded by Barbara Keith (released Sept 1970).
Hit versions by Delaney & Bonnie (US #75 May 1970), Sherbet (AUS #18 1971).
Also recorded by Barbra Streisand (1971).

From the wiki: “A singer/guitarist and folk-influenced songwriter, Barbara Keith’s curious career began when she was discovered at Greenwich Village’s famous Café Wha?. Her first appearance on record was in 1968, with her background vocals and one of her songs appearing on the self-titled debut from Kangaroo Records. Verve Records released the first of two self-titled albums in 1969.

“Keith would would initially sign with Verve for one album (1969’s Barbara Keith). Some critics fell in love with the album but as far as sales the album went nowhere. Keith switched labels to A&M Records in August/September, 1970. Her first A&M single, ‘Free the People’, was soon covered by Delaney and Bonnie, whose promotional single peaked at #75 on the Billboard Hot 100, and a year later by Barbra Streisand (for her album Stoney End that peaked at #10 on the Billboard 200 album chart in the United States, her first to reach the top 10 in five years and a marked departure from Streisand’s previous musical direction).


First performed and recorded by Elaine Paige (UK #6 1981).
Similar to “Bolero in Blue” by Larry Clinton (1940).
Other hit versions by Barbra Streisand (US #52/MOR #9/UK #34 1982), Barry Manilow (US #39/MOR #8 1982), Elaine Paige rerecording (UK #36 1998).

From the wiki: “‘Memory’, often incorrectly called ‘Memories’, is a show tune from the 1981 musical Cats. Its writers, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cats director Trevor Nunn, received the 1981 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically. (Prior to its inclusion in Cats, the tune was earmarked for earlier Lloyd Webber projects, including a ballad for Perón in Evita, and as a song for Max in his original 1970s draft of Sunset Boulevard.)

“The lyric was based on T. S. Eliot’s poems ‘Preludes’ and ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’. Composer Lloyd Webber feared that the tune sounded too similar to Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ and to a work by Puccini, and also that the opening – the haunting main theme – closely resembled the flute solo (improvised by Bud Shank in the studio) from The Mamas & the Papas’ 1965 song ‘California Dreamin””.

“Lloyd-Webber asked his father’s opinion; according to him, his father responded ‘It sounds like a million dollars!’ While Lloyd Webber does acknowledge Ravel’s ‘Bolero’, there is no mention of similarity to ‘Bolero in Blue’ written by Larry Clinton, replicating note-for-note the first several measures from Clinton’s composition.

Stoney End

Written and first recorded by Laura Nyro (1966).
Also recorded by The Blossoms (B-side 1967 |A-side 1969), The Stone Poneys (1968), Peggy Lipton (US #121 1968).
Hit version by Barbra Streisand (US #6/MOR #2/CAN #5/UK #27 1971).

From the wiki: “Laura Nyro (1947–1997) was an American songwriter, singer, and pianist. She achieved critical acclaim with her own recordings, particularly the albums Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (1968) and New York Tendaberry (1969), and had commercial success with artists such as Barbra Streisand and The 5th Dimension recording her songs.

“Nyro’s style was a hybrid of Brill Building-style New York pop, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, show tunes, rock, and soul. As a child, she taught herself piano, read poetry, and listened to her mother’s records by Leontyne Price, Billie Holiday and classical composers such as Ravel and Debussy. She composed her first songs at age eight. With her family, she spent summers in the Catskill Mountains, where her father played the trumpet at resorts.

“‘Stoney End’ was first recorded by Nyro in 1966 and released in 1967 on the Verve/Folkway album More Than a New Discovery (later reissued as Laura Nyro, 1969, and as The First Songs, 1973). For the single version of ‘Stoney End,’ Nyro was forced to rework some of the lyrics that referred to the Bible, because Verve felt it would cause too much controversy.

Crying Time

Written and first recorded by Buck Owens (B-side 1964).
Hit version by Ray Charles (US #6/R&B #5/UK #50 1966).

From the wiki: “‘Crying Time’ is a song from 1964 written by Buck Owens. Owens recorded the original version of his song and released it as the B-side to ‘I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail’ in 1964. A cover version of ‘Crying Time’ was then recorded in 1965 by Ray Charles, featuring backing vocals by the Jack Halloran Singers and The Raelettes, and released on his 1966 album Crying Time. His version proved to be a hit strong Top 40 and R&B hit. Charles’ version of ‘Crying Time’ won two Grammy Awards in 1967, in the categories Best R&B Recording and Best R&B Solo Performance.

“Charles and Barbra Streisand together performed the song as a duet on her 1973 album Barbra Streisand … And Other Musical Instruments and on the TV special titled the same.”

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

First performed (in Meet Me in St. Louis) by Judy Garland (1944).
Popular recorded versions Judy Garland (1944), by Frank Sinatra (1957), Barbra Streisand (1967), The Pretenders (1987), Sam Smith (2014).

From the wiki: “‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, was introduced by Judy Garland in a poignant moment in the 1944 movie musical Meet Me In St. Louis. When presented with the original draft lyric, Garland, her co-star Tom Drake and director Vincente Minnelli criticized the song as depressing, and asked Martin to change the lyrics.

“Though he initially resisted, Martin made several changes to make the song more upbeat, e.g. the lines ‘It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past’ became ‘Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight’. Garland’s version of the song, which was also released as a single by Decca Records, became popular among United States troops serving in World War II; her performance at the Hollywood Canteen brought many soldiers to tears.

Till I Loved You

First performed by Placido Domingo, Dionne Warwick & Gloria Estefan (1988).
Hit versions by Barbra Streisand & Don Johnson (US #25/UK #15 1988), Placido Domingo & Jennifer Rush (UK #24 1989).
Also recorded by Placido Domingo & Gloria Estefan (Spanish, 1989), Placido Domingo & Simone Bittencourt de Oliverira (Portuguese, 1989)

From the wiki: “‘Till I Loved You’ was composed for the never-staged musical Goya: A Life in Song, based on the life of the Spanish artist Francisco Goya. The original recording was sung by tenor Plácido Domingo with American singers Dionne Warwick and Gloria Estefan. The song was covered (although released first in the US) as a duet by Don Johnson and Barbra Streisand, and appeared on Streisand’s 1988 album of the same name and, later, on her 2002 compilation, Duets. As a single, the Streisand/Johnson recording reached #16 in the UK and #25 in the US.

“‘Till I Loved You’ was subsequently released, in 1989, also as a single by Domingo with another collaborator to the album, Jennifer Rush (‘The Power of Love‘), charting only in the UK.

“Domingo also recorded a Spanish-language single of the song with Gloria Estefan titled ‘Hasta amarte’, and a Portuguese version, ‘Apaixonou’, with Simone Bittencourt de Oliveira.”


First performed by The Kids of Sesame Street (1970).
Hit versions by Barbra Streisand (MOR #28 1972), The Carpenters (US #3/UK #53/JPN #1 1973).

(Above is from a 1971 broadcast of Sesame Street.)

From the wiki: “”Sing” is a popular song created for Sesame Street, written by staff songwriter Joe Raposo for the popular children’s TV show. In its initial appearance, the song was sung by adult human cast members of the show (the most frequent lead singer was Bob McGrath), and Muppets, including Big Bird.

“Although Barbra Streisand had an Easy Listening hit with ‘Sing’ (in medley with ‘Make Your Own Kind of Music’) in 1972 with ‘Sing’, Karen and Richard Carpenter first heard the song as guests on ABC television special Robert Young with the Young in 1973. They loved the song and felt it could be a big hit. ‘Sing’ became the debut single off The Carpenters album Now & Then, released in 1973.”

All I Ask of You

Originally recorded by Sarah Brightman & Cliff Richard (UK #3 1986).
US hit version by Barbra Streisand (US #15 1988).

From the wiki: “‘All I Ask of You’ is a song from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version of The Phantom of the Opera.