Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Gladys Knight & The Pips

Try to Remember

First performed by Jerry Orbach (1960).
Hit versions by Ed Ames (US #73/MOR #17 1965), The Brothers Four (US #91/MOR #10 1965), Roger Williams (US #97 1965), New World Trio (AUS #11 1968), Gladys Knight & the Pips (US #11/MOR #2/R&B #6/UK #4 1975).

From the wiki: “‘Try to Remember’ was written for the musical comedy The Fantasticks, sung as the introductory song in the show to get the audience to imagine what the sparse set suggests.

“Its lyrics, by author and lyricist Tom Jones (not the singer), famously rhyme ‘remember’ with ‘September’, ‘so tender’, ’ember’, and ‘December’, and repeat the sequence -llow throughout the song: verse 1 contains ‘mellow’, ‘yellow’, and ‘callow fellow’; verse 2 contains ‘willow’, ‘pillow’, ‘billow'”; verse 3 contains ‘follow’, ‘hollow’, ‘mellow’; and all verses end with ‘follow’. Harvey Schmidt composed the music.

“In 1965, five years after its Broadway debut, ‘Try To Remember’ made it into the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart three times with versions by Ed Ames, Roger Williams, and the Brothers Four. ‘Try to Remember’ has since been covered by many artists over the years and has become a popular standard in the American songbook.

This Christmas

Co-written and first recorded by Donny Hathaway (XMAS #11 1970).
Other popular versions by Gladys Knight & The Pips (1980), Yutaka Yokokura (1988), Gloria Estefan (1993).

From the wiki: “‘This Christmas’ is a well-known Christmas song originally recorded by R&B singer-songwriter Donny Hathaway (under the stage name ‘Donny Pitts’) and released as a single in 1970, peaking that year at #11 on the Billboard Christmas Singles chart.

“In 1980, Gladys Knight & the Pips recorded ‘This Christmas’ for their holiday album That Special Time of Year, re-released in 2013 on The Classic Christmas Album. Japanese jazz artist Yutaka Yokokura’s recording was one of several Christmastime songs by various artists included on the 1988 holiday compilation album The GRP All Star Christmas Collection. Gloria Estefan, in 1993, included ‘This Christmas’ on her holiday album Christmas Through Your Eyes.”

I’ve Got to Use My Imagination

Co-written and first recorded by Barry Goldberg (1973).
Hit version by Gladys Knight & The Pips (US #4/R&B #1 1973).
Also recorded by Bob Dylan (bootleg 1984), Joe Cocker (1989), Gerry Goffin, co-writer (1995), Joan Osborne (2007).

From the wiki: “‘I’ve Got to Use My Imagination’ was written by Gerry Goffin (‘Up on the Roof‘, ‘Oh No Not My Baby‘, ‘Saving All My Love for You‘, ‘One Fine Day’) and by Barry Goldberg, and was first recorded by Goldberg in 1973 at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio with co-producers Jerry Wexler and Bob Dylan (also on backing vocals and percussion).

“Goldberg was the pianist behind Dylan at the infamous ‘Dylan goes electric’ Newport Folk Festival performance in 1965 (he was a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band that had backed Dylan), and it was Dylan who helped Goldberg secure the deal with Atlantic Records that resulted in the 1974 release of Barry Goldberg.

Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)

Written and first recorded by Jim Weatherly (1972).
Hit versions by Bob Luman (C&W #7 1973), Gladys Knight & The Pips (US #2/R&B #1/UK #31 1973), David Sanborn (R&B #56 1983).

From the wiki: “‘Neither One of Us’ was written and first recorded by Jim Weatherly, found on his 1972 album Weatherly. Weatherly was an All-American quarterback at the University of Mississippi before choosing songwriting over a football career. Bob Luman charted first with ‘Neither One of Us’, making it into the Top 10 Country in 1973.

Wind Beneath My Wings

First released by Roger Whittaker (1982).
Also recorded by Sheena Easton (1982)
Hit versions by Colleen Hewett (AUS #52 1982), Lou Rawls (US #65/MOR #10/R&B #60 1983), Gladys Knight & The Pips (as “Hero (Wind Beneath My Wings)” US #104/MOR #23/R&B #64 1983), Gary Morris (C&W #4/CAN #10 1983), Bette Midler (US #1/UK #5/AUS #1/NZ #4 1989).

From the wiki: “Wind Beneath My Wings’ (sometimes titled ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings’ and ‘Hero’) was written in 1982 by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley. They recorded a demo of the song, which they gave to publisher and songwriter (and one-time Buddy Holly cohort) Bob Montgomery (‘Heartbeat‘, ‘Love’s Made a Fool of You‘, ‘Misty Blue‘).

“Silbar recalls, ‘It was on a Friday that we gave a tape of our demos to Bob Montgomery. Then when we saw Bob on Monday, he immediately told us he loved ‘Wind Beneath My Wings.’ Then he had a surprise for us. He played us a beautiful, ballad version of the song that he had recorded over the weekend. We couldn’t believe how fantastic it sounded. We both had tears in our eyes. Bob had taken our rough, midtempo demo and produced a new version which truly showed the potential of the song.” who, then, recorded his own demo version of the song – changing it from the mid-tempo version he was given to a ballad.’

“Silbar and Henley then shopped the song to many artists, eventually resulting in Roger Whittaker becoming the first to release the song commercially. It appeared on his 1982 studio album, also titled The Wind Beneath My Wings. It was also recorded by Australian artist Colleen Hewett in 1982, becoming a minor local hit in 1983.

Every Beat of My Heart

First recorded by The Royals (1952).
Hit version by The Pips (US #6/R&B #1 1961).

From the wiki: “‘Every Beat of My Heart’ is a rhythm and blues song by legendary band leader and disc-jockey Johnny Otis (‘Willie and the Hand Jive‘). It was first recorded in 1952 by a group Otis had discovered and groomed, the Royals (later to be known as Hank Ballard & the Midnighters).

“The Royals were first formed as the Four Falcons by guitarist and songwriter Alonzo Tucker in Detroit in 1952. In the group’s early years, various Four Falcons’ members included Jackie Wilson, Little Willie John, Freddie Pride, and Levi Stubbs, who all went on to become stars in their rights solo or with other groups after leaving the Royals.

Midnight Train to Georgia

Written and first recorded (as “Midnight Plane to Houston”) by Jim Weatherly (1972).
Hit versions by Cissy Houston (R&B #45 1973), Gladys Knight & The Pips (US #1/R&B #1/UK #10 1973).

From the wiki: “The song was originally written and performed by Jim Weatherly (‘(You’re the) Best Thing That Ever Happened‘) under the title ‘Midnight Plane to Houston’, recorded for Amos Records.

“‘It was based on a conversation I had with somebody… about taking a midnight plane to Houston,’ Weatherly recalls. ‘I wrote it as a kind of a country song. Then we sent the song to a guy named Sonny Limbo in Atlanta and he wanted to cut it with Cissy Houston (mother of Whitney Houston) … He asked if I minded if he changed the title to ‘Midnight Train to Georgia.’ And I said, I don’t mind. Just don’t change the rest of the song.’ Houston took Weatherly’s song into the R&B chart under the title ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’.

I Heard It Through the Grapevine

First recorded by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles (1966, released 1968).
Hit versions by Gladys Knight & the Pips (US #2/R&B #1 1967), Marvin Gaye (US #1/R&B #1/CAN #8/UK #1/IRE #7 1968), Creedence Clearwater Revival (US #43/CAN #76 1976).

From the wiki: “First recorded by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles in 1966, ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ was rejected for release by Motown owner Berry Gordy, who told Barrett Strong (co-writer) and Norman Whitfield (producer and co-writer) that the song was ‘too bluesy’ and that it lacked ‘hit potential’. Whitfield produced another version, with Marvin Gaye, in 1967 with Gordy also rejected (‘It sucks’, he is reported to have opined) for release. Even the Isley Brothers are said to have taken a crack at it (see below).

Help Me Make It Through the Night

Written and first recorded by Kris Kristofferson (1970).
Hit versions by Sammi Smith (US #8/C&W #1 1971), Joe Simon (US #69/R&B #13 1971), Gladys Knight & The Pips (US #33/R&B #13/UK #11 1972).
Also recorded by Elvis Presley (1971), Joan Baez (1971), Jerry Lee Lewis (1971), Dottie West (1971), Bryan Ferry (1974).

From the wiki: “Kris Kristofferson wrote ‘Help Me Make It’ while sweeping floors and emptying ashtrays at Columbia Records studios in Nashville, and said that he got the inspiration for the song from an Esquire magazine interview with Frank Sinatra. When asked what he believed in, Frank replied, ‘Booze, broads, or a Bible…whatever helps me make it through the night.’

(You’re the) Best Thing That Ever Happened

First recorded by Danny Thomas (1973).
First single release by Ray Price (C&W #1 1973).
Also recorded by Dean Martin (1973).
Hit versions by Gladys Knight & The Pips (US #3/R&B #1/UK #7 February 1974), The Persuaders (US #85/R&B #29 March 1974).

From the wiki: “‘You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me’ — also known simply as ‘Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me’ — is a song written by Jim Weatherly, and enjoyed two runs of popularity, each by an artist in a different genre. The song’s first run of popularity, as ‘You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me,’ came in 1973. That’s when Country singer Ray Price took the song to #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart on October 6, 1973.