Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Neil Diamond

A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You

Written and first performed (live) by Neil Diamond (1966).
Hit version by The Monkees (US #2/UK #3/CAN #1/AUS #4 1967).

From the wiki: “‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’ was written by Neil Diamond. He never made a studio recording of the song (as he had done with The Monkees’ ‘I’m a Believer‘), but he did perform ‘A Little Bit Me’ in his live shows circa late 1966.

On the Way to the Sky

Co-written and first recorded by Carole Bayer-Sager (1981).
Hit version by co-writer Neil Diamond (US #27/MOR #4 1982).

From the wiki: “‘On the Way to the Sky’ was written by Neil Diamond and Carole Bayer Sager. First recorded and released by Bayer-Sager in 1981. on her album Sometimes Late At Night, the song would become a chart hit for co-writer Diamond in 1982 when released as the title track promotional single for his fourteenth studio album, On the Way to the Sky.”

Until It’s Time For You to Go

Written and first recorded by Buffy St. Marie (1965).
Hit versions by The Four Pennies (UK #19 1965), Neil Diamond (US #53/MOR #11 1970), Elvis Presley (US#40/MOR #9/UK #5 1972), The New Birth (US #97/R&B #21 1973).

From the wiki: “‘Until It’s Time for You to Go’ was written by Canadian First Nations singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie for her 1965 album Many a Mile. It was a UK Top 20 hit for British group The Four Pennies in 1965, a Billboard Hot 100 single for Neil Diamond in 1970, an MOR and Top-5 UK for Elvis Presley in 1972, and a modest R&B hit in 1973 for The New Birth featuring future Supremes member Susaye Greene.”

September Morn

Co-written and first recorded (as “C’est en septembre”) by Gilbert Becaud (1978).
Hit version by Neil Diamond (US #17/MOR #2/CAN #15/AUS #23/NZ #19 1979).

From the wiki: “‘September Morn’ was adapted from ‘C’est en septembre’ (‘In September’) co-written by Gilbert Becaud (‘Let It Be Me‘) and Neil Diamond (‘Red Red Wine‘, ‘I’m a Believer‘), with original French lyrics by Maurice Vidalin. It was first recorded by Becaud in late 1978 for release in France in January, 1979. Diamond would release ‘September Morn’ as his lead promotional single for the album September Morn in late 1979.

“Becaud began collaborating with Neil Diamond in the 1970s, together writing ‘Love on the Rocks’, ‘Mama Don’t Know’, and Becaud was among Diamond’s collaborators for the soundtrack music to The Jazz Singer. Becaud was a popular French singer-songwriter whose dynamic stage act and charismatic crooning earned him the soubriquet ‘Monsieur 100,000 volts’; he also wrote more than 400 songs, the best-known of which, ‘Et Maintenant’ (1962), (translated as ‘What Now My Love‘) was recorded by numerous singers, including Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Shirley Bassey.”

Baby Can I Hold You?

Written and first recorded by Tracy Chapman (US #48/MOR #19/CAN #27 1988).
Also recorded by Neil Diamond (1989), Sanchez (1989).
Other hit versions by Boyzone (UK #2/IRE #2/NZ #11/DAN #2 1997), Tracy Chapman & Luciano Pavarotti (UK #3 2001), Ronan Keating (GER #42 2005).

From the wiki: “‘Baby Can I Hold You?’ was written by Tracy Chapman, and first recorded for release in 1988. The song reached the Top 50 in the US but peaked at only #48, failing to become Chapman’s second Top 40 hit. Chapman subsequently re-recorded the song as a duet with Luciano Pavarotti for the CD Pavarotti and Friends for Cambodia and Tibet. ‘Baby Can I Hold You?’ was also re-released as a single in promotion of Chapman’s hits package Collection in 2001 and, this time, reached #3 in the UK. Neil Diamond recorded the song for his 1989 album, The Best Years of Our Lives and became the first of many artists to cover the song.

Don’t Turn Around

First recorded by Tina Turner (B-side 1986).
Hit versions by Luther Ingram (R&B #55 1987), Aswad (R&B #45/UK #1 1988), Neil Diamond (MOR #19 1992), Ace of Base (US #4/MOR #7/CAN #1/UK #5/IRE #5/SWE #2/AUS #19 1994).

From the wiki: “‘Don’t Turn Around’ was written by Diane Warren (‘Because You Loved Me’) and Albert Hammond (‘The Air That I Breathe‘, ‘To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before‘). It was originally recorded by Tina Turner and first released as the B-side to the single ‘Typical Male’ in 1986. Warren is said to have been disappointed that Turner’s record company treated the song only as a B-side, not even releasing it on any of Turner’s albums.

I’m a Believer

First recorded by Neil Diamond (1966, first released 1967).
Hit versions by The Monkees (US #1/UK #1/CAN #1/AUS #1 1966), Neil Diamond (US #51/MOR #31 1971), Robert Wyatt (UK #29 1974).
Also recorded by The Fifth Estate (1967), Neil Diamond (re-recording 1979).

From the wiki: “‘I’m a Believer’ was composed by Neil Diamond who’d already recorded his own version before it was covered by The Monkees. Diamond’s original recording, produced by the songwriting team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, was eventually released on his 1967 album Just for You.

“Diamond’s original recording was also released as a single in 1971, charting in the US and Australia. A revised recording, featuring additional lyrics, appeared on Diamond’s 1979 album September Morn. Diamond had also suggested the song to The Fifth Estate who did record ‘I’m a Believer’ as the 1967 follow-up to their hit single ‘Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead’, but it did not chart.

“‘I’m a Believer’ was the second single release for The Monkees. It hit the #1 spot on Billboard Hot 100 (and elsewhere worldwide) for the week ending December 31, 1966 and remained there for seven weeks, becoming not only the last #1 hit of 1966 but also the biggest-selling record for the whole of the next year, 1967. It is one of the fewer than forty all-time singles to have sold 10 million (or more) physical copies worldwide.

Red, Red Wine

Written and first recorded by Neil Diamond (US #62 1966).
Other hit versions by Jimmy James & The Vagabonds (UK #46 1966), Tony Tribe (UK #46 1969), Roy Drusky (C&W #17/CAN #16 1972), UB40 (US #34/UK #1/NZ #1 1984 |US #1 1988).

From the wiki: “‘Red, Red Wine’ was written and originally recorded by Neil Diamond (‘September Morn‘,’I’m a Believer‘,’Until It’s Time for You to Go‘). It has been covered by Tony Tribe, and Jimmy James & the Vagabond (both charting in the UK in the late ’60s), American country singer Roy Drusky (who charted in 1972) and, most famously, by British reggae group UB40, whose version topped the UK and US singles charts – four years apart.

Red Rubber Ball

First recorded by The Seekers (1966).
Hit version by The Cyrkle (US #2/CAN #1 1966).
Also recorded by Neil Diamond (1966), Mel Tormé (1966), Simon & Gardfunkel (1967, released 1997), The Diodes (1977).

From the wiki: “‘Red Rubber Ball’ was co-written by Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkel) and Bruce Woodley (of The Seekers). In an interview on The Colbert Report, Simon said he wrote ‘Red Rubber Ball’ while living in England, to get a £100 advance from The Seekers. The Seekers were the to record ‘Red Rubber Ball’, for their 1966 album Come the Day (US album title: Georgy Girl), but the song was not released as a single.

“According to Cyrkle guitarist Tom Dawes, Simon also offered it to the Cyrkle when they were opening for Simon and Garfunkel on tour in England.

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

First recorded by Kelly Gordon (1969).
Hit versions by The Hollies (US #7/UK #3/CAN #11/IRE #3/AUS #8/NZ #7 1969), Neil Diamond (US #20/MOR #4 1970), The Justice Collective (UK #1 2012).

From the wiki: “‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ is a popular music ballad written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell. Originally recorded by Kelly Gordon (who would later become a producer for Glen Campbell, Aretha Franklin, David Lee Roth) in 1969, the song became a worldwide hit for The Hollies later that year and again for Neil Diamond in 1970. Scott and Russell had been introduced to each other by Johnny Mercer, at a California nightclub. Although Russell was dying of lymphoma and the pair met in person only three times, they managed to collaborate on the song.

Hanky Panky

Originally recorded by The Raindrops (1963).
First released (as a B-side) by The Summits (1963).
Hit version by Tommy James & The Shondells in (1964|US #1 1966)
Also recorded by Neil Diamond (US #51/AUS #55 1968).

From the wiki: “Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy‘, ‘Be My Baby’, ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’) authored the song in 1963 and were the first to record it. They were in the middle of a recording session for their group The Raindrops, and realized they needed a B-side to a single, ‘That Boy John’. The duo then went into the hall and penned the song in 20 minutes. The Summits (a group produced by The Tokens), however, were first to release a ‘Hanky Panky,’ also as a B-Side (to ‘He’s An Angel’), in October 1963. The Raindrops’ recording was released in November 1963.

“Although only a B-side (and one that the two composers were not terribly impressed with), ‘Hanky Panky’ became popular with garage rock bands. Tommy James heard it being performed by one such group in a club in South Bend, Indiana. ‘I really only remembered a few lines from the song,’ James to an interviewer. ‘So, when we went to record it, I had to make up the rest of the song.’

“James’ version was recorded at a local radio station, WNIL in Niles, Michigan, and released on the local Snap Records label, selling well in the tri-state area of Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. However, lacking national distribution, the single quickly disappeared. James moved on, breaking up The Shondells, and finishing high school.

“In 1965, an unemployed James was contacted by Pittsburgh disc jockey ‘Mad Mike’ Metro. Metro had begun playing the Shondells’ version of ‘Hanky Panky’ and the single had become popular in that area. James then decided to re-release the song, traveling to Pittsburgh where he hired the first decent local band he ran into, the Raconteurs, to become the new Shondells (the original members having declined to re-form) in order to perform the song in live shows.

“After appearances on TV and in clubs in the city, James took a copy of the original Snap Records recording of ‘Hanky Panky’ to New York, where he sold it to Roulette Records. ‘The amazing thing is we did not re-record the song,’ James recalls. ‘I don’t think anybody can record a song that bad and make it sound good. It had to sound amateurish like that.’ It was released promptly and took the top position of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in July 1966.

“Neil Diamond recorded a version of ‘Hanky Panky’ and it was released as the B-side to ‘New Orleans’ in 1968 when the A-side peaked at #51 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #55 in Australia. His recording begins with Diamond complaining to the producer ‘No, I’m not gonna sing this song. DO IT DO IT. I don’t care who wrote it. YA. Alright.'”

The Summits, “Hanky Panky” (1963):

Tommy James & The Shondells, “Hanky Panky” (1964 rereleased 1966):

Neil Diamond, “Hanky Panky” (1968):