First recorded by The King Cole Trio (1946, released 1989).
Other popular versions by The King Cole Trio (US #/R&B #3 1946), Bing Crosby (1947), Mel Tormé (1955 et al.), Stevie Wonder (1967), The Carpenters (1978), Christina Aguilera (US #18 1999), Michael Bublé (MOR #6 2003).
From the wiki: “‘The Christmas Song’ is sometimes known as ‘Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire’ and was co-written by Mel Tormé (with Robert Wells) in the summer of 1944 when Tormé was 19.
“According to Tormé, the song was written in July (1944) during a blistering hot summer. In an effort to ‘stay cool by thinking cool,’ the most-performed Christmas song was born. ‘I saw a spiral pad on his (Wells’s) piano with four lines written in pencil’, Tormé recalled. ‘They started, ‘Chestnuts roasting… Jack Frost nipping… Yuletide carols… Folks dressed up like Eskimos.’ Bob didn’t think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off. Forty minutes later that song was written. I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics.’
“The first recording and the original arrangement of the song was recorded in June 1946 by the The King Cole Trio – without strings, because Capitol Records didn’t want to risk losing Cole’s core R&B audience with orchestration. But Cole insisted, so strings were scored for a session two months later, in August 1946, This was the recording released in November 1946 with great success, peaking at #3 on both the Hit Parade and R&B music charts. (The original non-string arrangement was not issued until 1989, when it was accidentally included on the various-artists compilation Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits (1935–1954).)
First recorded by Jo Jo Wail & the Somethings (1963).
Hit version by Stevie Wonder (US #29/R&B #5 1964).
From the wiki: “‘Hey Harmonica Man’ was written by Marty Cooper and Lou Josie, and was first recorded in 1963 by Jo Jo Wail & the Somethings. It would be covered by Stevie Wonder in 1964.
“Wonder has poured scorn on his pre-’65 Motown output; whenever he’s asked about these records, he seems to lump them all together as a collection of ‘juvenilia’. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s ‘Hey Harmonica Man’ for which he reserves particular criticism, describing it on more than one occasion as ’embarrassing’.
First recorded by Little Stevie Wonder (1962).
Hit version by The Blendells (US #62 1964).
From the wiki: “The Blendells were a 1960s Mexican American brown-eyed soul group from East Los Angeles, California. They garnered success in 1964 with their Latin-tinged cover of Little Stevie Wonder’s ‘La La La La La’, written by Clarence Paul and first released on Wonder’s 1962 chart-topping album Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius. The Blendell’s 1964 recording peaked at #62 on the national charts, but it was #1 in Phoenix, AZ (where they performed as headliners before 11,000 people), Hawaii, and Los Angeles, at a time when the #2 song was by The Beatles.
“The song was brought to the attention of the band by drummer Ronnie Chipres. The Blendells were playing it at one of their gigs when Eddie Davis heard it and urged them to record it. Lead singer Sal Murillo says the song was recorded in one take. Many in the ‘West Coast East Side’ music community believe The Blendells would have achieved far more success had most of its members not been drafted into the Vietnam War.
First recorded by Chris Clark (1966).
Hit version by Stevie Wonder (recorded 1967 |released US #7/R&B #5/MOR #10/UK #2/CAN #10/IRE #3/GER #15/NZ #10 1969).
From the wiki: “‘Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday’ was written by Ron Miller and Bryan Wells and was first recorded, in 1966, by blue-eyed Soul singer and Motown recording artist Chris Clark. Clark became famous in England as the ‘white Negress’ (a nickname meant as a compliment) because the six-foot platinum blonde toured with fellow Motown artists who were predominantly black.
“America’s answer to Dusty Springfield, Clark managed to have only one chart hit in the US: ‘Love’s Gone Bad’ peaked at #105 on the Billboard’s Bubbling Under the Hot 100 chart and #41 R&B in 1966. Much later, Clark would co-wrote the screenplay for the 1972 Diana Ross vehicle Lady Sings the Blues, for which Clark was nominated for an Academy Award. Clark also later became an executive for Motown Productions’ film and television division in Los Angeles.
Co-written and first recorded by Stevie Wonder (1967, released 1977).
Hit versions by Aretha Franklin (US #3/R&B #1 1973 |UK #24 1974), Luther Vandross (US #87/R&B #5 1984), Basia (US #33 1989), Miki Howard (R&B #3/UK #67 1990).
From the wiki: “‘Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)’ was written by Morris Broadnax, Clarence Paul, and Stevie Wonder. The song was originally recorded by Stevie Wonder in 1967, but it was not released until appearing on the 1977 anthology album Looking Back.
“Wonder played Aretha Franklin the song in 1973, and she knew how to ‘take’ someone else’s song (as she had already done with Otis Redding’s ‘Respect‘). Produced by Franklin, Arif Mardin and Jerry Wexler, ‘Until You Come Back’ became Franklin’s second-highest charting Pop song of the ’70s. When her recording reached its highest position at #3, Franklin became the first artist to record singles that peaked at each of #s 1-10 on the Billboard Hot 100. (Marvin Gaye became the first male artist to achieve the ‘occupy-all-10’ when ‘Sexual Healing’ reached #3 in 1982.)
“Other popular recordings of ‘Until You Come Back to Me’ include the Luther Vandross charting medley of ‘Superstar/Until You Come Back to Me’ (1984), Basia’s 1989 recording for her second album, London Warsaw New York, that charted in the lower reaches of the Billboard Top 40, and Miki Howard’s cover in 1990 that charted in the U.K. and R&B in the U.S.”
First released by The New World Singers (January 1963).
Also released by The Chad Mitchell Trio (March 1963), Bob Dylan (May 1963), Marlene Dietrich (1963).
Hit versions by Peter, Paul & Mary (US #2/UK #13 1963), Stan Getz (US #110 1964), Stevie Wonder (US #9/R&B #1 1966).
From The Originals: “The timeline of ‘first’ recordings and releases of ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ can sure be a more than confusing. Some sources date the New World Singers’ recording to September 1963, four months after Dylan’s was released. That is patently wrong, however. The New World Singers’ version appeared on a compilation of ‘topical songs’ called Broadside Ballads Vol. 1 which apparently was released on 1 January 1963 on Broadside Records, the recording arm of the folk magazine (you guessed it) Broadside, which was founded by Pete Seeger and printed the lyrics of the song in May 1962. The Chad Mitchell Trio, sometimes credited with recording the song first, released the song on their In Action LP in March 1963.
First recorded (as a demo) in 1965 and first released by Jean DuShon (Oct 1966).
Also recorded by Connie Haines (1965), Barbara McNair (released Nov 1966), The Four Tops (1967), The Temptations (1967).
Hit versions by Tony Bennett (US #91/EZ #8 1967), Stevie Wonder (US #2/R&B #2 1968).
From the wiki: “‘For Once in My Life’, written by Ron Miller and Orlando Murden, was originally recorded by Jean DuShon, tapped by Miller to demo ‘For Once in My Life’ as he was ‘fine-tuning’ the composition. Miller was so impressed by DuShon’s rendition he released her recording as a single on Chess Records’ Cadet label in 1966.
“Motown CEO Berry Gordy found out that Miller, a Motown staff writer, had given the song to an outside artist. Gordy had Miller immediately make the song available for Motown artist Connie Haines, who recorded the first version of the song at the label in July 1965 and, then, Barbara McNair to record (in 1966) and, later, for the Four Tops, the Temptations and, later, Stevie Wonder to record.
First released by Mieko Hirota (1965).
Also recorded by Dave Pike (1966), Chris Montez (1966), Marvin Gaye (1966).
Hit versions by Bobby Hebb (US #2/R&B #3/UK #12 1966), Boney M. (UK #3/NETH #1/GER #1 1976).
From the wiki: “Bobby Hebb’s breakthrough as a songwriter would be born of tragedy. In November 1963, already upset over the JFK assassination, Bobby then learned that his older brother, Harold, had been stabbed to death the same night in a fight outside a Nashville nightclub. Out of his depression, Hebb began to write. Using past hurts (‘Yesterday my life was filled with rain’) and inspired by the anonymous smile of a complete stranger (‘You smiled and it really, really eased the pain’), ‘Sunny’ came into being.
“The upbeat number was included in Hebb’s nightclub act at his gig at the New York club Brandy’s. The audiences responded positively as did record producer Jerry Ross (‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me‘), who included the song on a publisher’s demo record that found its way to Japan.
“That was how ‘Sunny’ came about to be first recorded and commercially-released in Japan – not the US – by Mieko ‘Miko’ Hirota, the ‘Connie Francis of Japan’, where it was said to have done well on the charts.
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