Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Carpenters

The Christmas Song

First recorded by The King Cole Trio (1946, released 1989).
Hit versions by The King Cole Trio (US #3/R&B #3 1946), Christina Aguilera (US #18 1999), Michael Bublé (MOR #6 2003).
Other popular versions by Bing Crosby (1947), Mel Tormé (1955 et al.), Stevie Wonder (1967), The Carpenters (1978).

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 recorded 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).)

All You Get from Love is a Love Song

First recorded by Steve Eaton (1973).
Also recorded by the Righteous Brothers (1975).
Hit version by the Carpenters (US #35/MOR #4/CAN #38/JPN #68 1977).

From the wiki: “‘All You Get from Love Is a Love Song’ was composed by Steve Eaton, former lead guitarist of Paul Revere & the Raiders (‘Indian Reservation (Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)‘), and was first recorded by Eaton in 1973.

“In 1975, the Righteous Brothers were the first to cover the song, for the album Sons of Mrs. Righteous. But, in 1977, ‘All You Get from Love is a Love Song’ was internationally popularized by the Carpenters. Included on the album, Passage, their cover was released as a promotional single – charting in the US Top-40, in Canada, and in Japan.

Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft

First recorded by Klaatu (US #62/CAN #45 1976).
Other hit version by The Carpenters (US #32/MOR #18/UK #9/CAN #9/IRE #1 1977).

From the wiki: “‘Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft’, written by Terry Draper, John Woloschuk, was first recorded by Canadian band Klaatu in 1976 for release on their debut album 3:47 EST. John Woloschuk, a member of Klaatu and one of the song’s composers, recalled:

‘The idea for this track was suggested by an actual event that is described in The Flying Saucer Reader, a book by Jay David published in 1967. In March 1953 an organization known as the ‘International Flying Saucer Bureau’ sent a bulletin to all its members urging them to participate in an experiment termed ‘World Contact Day’ whereby, at a predetermined date and time, they would attempt to collectively send out a telepathic message to visitors from outer space. The message began with the words … ‘Calling occupants of interplanetary craft!”

“After its release, the Klaatu recording would open night transmissions of the pirate radio station Radio Caroline. Even more bizarre, the song got caught up in rumors that it presaged a Beatles reunion – that ‘Klaatu’ was just a pseudonym for the Fab Four’s return to the recording studio (and possible reunion concert).

Man Smart (Woman Smarter)

Written and first recorded by King Radio (1937).
Hit version by Robert Palmer (US #63 1976).
Also recorded by Harry Belfonte (1956), Robert Mitchum (1957), The Carpenters (1977).

From the wiki: “The Calypso song ‘Man Smart (Woman Smarter)’ was written and first recorded by King Radio (Norman Span) in 1937. Variations of the song have been recorded by many artists including Harry Belafonte, Chubby Checker, Rosanne Cash, Robert Mitchum, and The Carpenters. Robert Palmer charted in the Billboard Hot 100 with his 1976 cover recording. ‘Man Smart (Woman Smarter)’ was also a staple of the live repertoire of the Grateful Dead from 1981 to 1995.”

Jambalaya (On the Bayou)

Based on “Gran Prairie” by Happy Fats & His Rayne-Bo Ramblers (1940).
Hit versions by Hank Williams (US #20/C&W #1 1952), Jo Stafford (US #3 1952), Fats Domino (US #30 1961), Blue Ridge Rangers (#16 1973), The Carpenters (UK #12 1974).

From the wiki: “The melody of ‘Jambalaya’ is based on the Cajun song ‘Gran Prairie’, first recorded in 1940 by Happy Fats & His Rayne-Bo Ramblers. While ‘Gran Prairie’ is a song about a lost love, the lyrics written by Hank Williams for ‘Jambalaya’ are about life, parties and stereotypical Cajun foods. Released in July 1952, crediting Williams as the sole author (there is some dispute, whether the lyrics were co-written with Moon Mullican), it reached #1 on the US Country music chart and stayed there for 14 non-consecutive weeks.

“Jo Stafford’s cover peaked at #3 on the Pop music charts, further popularizing the song. Other popular recordings were later charted by Fats Domino, and Blue Ridge Rangers (John Fogerty). The Carpenters released their 1974 recording of ‘Jambalaya’ as an overseas single, with chart success in the UK, Japan, Mexico, Holland and Germany.”

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

First recorded by Margaret Whiting (1947).
Other popular versions by The Les Paul Trio (1947), The Orioles (R&B #9 1949), Ella Fitzgerald (1960), Danté & the Evergreens (US #106 1960), Billy Ward & His Dominoes (1965), Nancy Wilson (XMAS #17 1965 |XMAS #24 1967), The Carpenters (1985), Rufus Wainwright (2005), Zooey Dechanel & Joseph Gordon-Levitt (2011).

From the wiki: “‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?’ was written in 1947 by Frank Loesser as an ‘independent song’ — not written for any particular movie or musical. Loesser was an American songwriter who had written lyrics and music for the Broadway hits Guys and Dolls and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, among others. He won separate Tony Awards for both shows, as well as sharing the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the latter, and was also nominated for five Academy Awards for best song, winning once, for ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside‘. Among Loesser’s other notable songs: ‘Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition’, ‘Heart and Soul‘, ‘On a Slow Boat to China’, and ‘Luck Be a Lady Tonight’ (from Guys and Dolls).

Top of the World

First recorded by The Carpenters (JPN #21 1972).
First hit version by Lynn Anderson (C&W #2 1973).
Other hit version by The Carpenters (US #1/UK #5/CAN #1/IRE #3 1973).

From the wiki: “‘Top of the World’ is a 1972 song by The Carpenter originally recorded for and released on the duo’s 1972 studio album A Song for You. Co-written by Richard Carpenter with lyricist John Bettis (‘Human Nature’, ‘Slow Hand’), ‘Top of the World’ was intended to be only an album cut for the Carpenters. The original album recording was released as a single in Japan in 1972, where it peaked at #21 on the Orion music chart. Soon after its album release, Country singer Lynn Anderson covered the song and was the first to release it as a US single.


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.”

We’ve Only Just Begun

First performed by Paul Williams (TV commercial 1969).
First commercial release by Freddie Allen (1970).
Hit versions by The Carpenters (US #2/MOR #1/CAN #1/UK #28 1970), Curtis Mayfield (US ALBUM #21/R&B #3/JAZZ #9 1971).

From the wiki: “‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ was written by Roger Nichols (music) and Paul Williams (lyrics). The song debuted in a wedding-themed TV commercial for Crocker National Bank in California with Williams on vocals. The first commercial single release was originally recorded by Smokey Roberds under the name ‘Freddie Allen’. Roberds had had previous hit song experience, with the group The Parade who charted ‘Sunshine Girl’ into the US Top-20 in 1967.

“When Roberds had heard the ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ TV commercial, he phoned Nichols, his friend, ascertained that Nichols had indeed co-written it, and then asked Nichols to create a full-length version. Nichols and Williams did so, with Roberds intending to produce it for a band he had just signed to White Whale Records. The band deal fell through; Roberds decided to record the song himself, but couldn’t do so under his stage name for contractual reasons. According to Roberds, his Country-Pop recording of ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ did well in California but not nationally – which he attributed to promotion and distribution problems.

I Won’t Last a Day Without You

Written and first single release by Paul Williams (1973).
Hit versions by Maureen McGovern (US #84/MOR #19 1973), Diana Ross (B-side US #1 1973), The Carpenters (1972 |US #11/MOR #1/UK #9/CAN #7/JPN #40 1974).
Also recorded by Mel Tormé & Buddy Rich (1978).

From the wiki: “‘I Won’t Last a Day Without You’ was co-written by Paul Williams (‘We’ve Only Just Begun’) and Roger Nichols. He released his version as a single in 1973, but generated no chart success.

“Maureen McGovern covered the song and also released it as a single in 1973 (and included on her album The Morning After), with her arrangement peaking at #84 on the Billboard Hot 100. Diana Ross also covered the song for her 1973 album Touch Me in the Morning, and it was released as the B-side of the title track single release, ‘Touch Me in the Morning’, which became a #1 hit.

“It was in 1972 when Richard Carpenter first learned of the new song from Williams and Nichols, who had already contributed ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ and ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’ to the Carpenters. Carpenter produced the recording that was included it on the Carpenters’ 1972 album A Song for You, but it would not be released as a single until 1974 when it would go US Top-20 and Top-10 in the UK and Canada.

An Old Fashioned Love Song

Written and first recorded by Paul Williams (1971).
Hit version by Three Dog Night (US #4/MOR #1/CAN #2 1971).

From the wiki: “‘An Old Fashioned Love Song’ was written by the noted songwriter Paul Williams, who originally intended the song for The Carpenters, and it was first recorded by Williams for his album Just an Old Fashioned Love Song.

“This was the first song Williams had written specifically for the Carpenters. But, Richard Carpenter rejected it and so Williams then offered the song to Three Dog Night. The Carpenters never recorded the song, but did perform it live on television with Carol Burnett a few months later on The Carol Burnett Show.”

This Masquerade

Written and first recorded by Leon Russell (B-side US #11/CAN #5 1972).
Also recorded by Helen Reddy (1972).
Hit versions by The Carpenters (B-side US #1/UK #2/CAN #1/AUS #1 1973), George Benson (US #10/R&B #3 1976).

From the wiki: “‘This Masquerade’ was written by Leon Russell (‘A Song for You‘), and first appeared on the B-side of the single ‘Tight Rope’ from Russell’s 1972 hit album Carney. Known mostly as a session musician early in his career, as a solo artist Russell crossed genres to include Rock and Roll, Blues, and Gospel music. As a first call studio musician in Los Angeles, Russell played on many of the most popular songs of the 1960s as a member of the Wrecking Crew, including Glen Campbell’s 1967 hit single ‘Gentle on My Mind‘, where Russell was credited on piano as ‘Russell Bridges’.


Co-written and first recorded (as “Groupie (Superstar)”) by Delaney & Bonnie (1969).
Also recorded by Rita Coolidge (1970), Bette Midler (1970 |1972).
Hit versions by The Carpenters (US #2/CAN #3/JPN #7 1971), Luther Vandross (US #87/R&B #5 1983).

From the wiki: “Accounts of the song’s origin vary somewhat, but it grew out of the late 1969-early 1970 nexus of English and American musicians known as Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, involving Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, and various others. The song’s working title during portions of its development was ‘Groupie Song’. In its first recorded incarnation, the song was titled ‘Groupie (Superstar)’, and was recorded and released as a non-album B-side to the Delaney & Bonnie single ‘Comin’ Home’ (promoting the album On Tour with Eric Clapton) in December 1969. ‘Groupie’ would see an eventual album release in 1972, on D&B Together.

It’s Gonna Take Some Time

Co-written and first recorded by Carole King (1971).
Hit version by The Carpenters (US #12/CAN #12/JPN #48 1972).

From the wiki: “‘It’s Going to Take Some Time’ is a song written by Carole King and Toni Stern for King’s 1971 album, Music. It was redone by the Carpenters in 1972 for their fourth album, A Song for You. According to Richard Carpenter, he had to choose which songs he wanted to remake, and there was a big pile of 7″ singles he had to listen to. When he encountered ‘It’s Going to Take Some Time’, he knew it would be a hit, and The Carpenters recorded it. The song peaked at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Touch Me When We’re Dancing

Written and first recorded by Bama (US #86/MOR #42 1979).
Hit versions by The Carpenters (US #16/MOR #1 1981), Alabama (C&W #1 1986).
Also recorded by Mickey Gilley & Charly McClain (1984).

From the wiki: “‘Touch Me When We’re Dancing’ was written by Terry Skinner, J. L. Wallace and Ken Bell. Skinner and Wallace headed the Muscle Shoals, Alabama, session group Bama, who first recorded the song and released it as a single in 1979.

A Song for You

Written and first recorded by Leon Russell (1970).
Hit versions by Andy Williams (MOR #29 1971), The Carpenters (1972), Ray Charles (US #104/MOR #9/R&B #57 1993), Herbie Hancock & Christina Aguilera (US #19 2005).
Also recorded by Donny Hathaway (1971), Dusty Springfield (1972).

From the wiki: “‘A Song for You’ was recorded Leon Russell for his debut album, Leon Russell, originally intending for it to be recorded by Rita Coolidge. It has been called ‘an American classic’ by Elton John (who sang ‘Song for You’ as an intro to a medley of his own songs ‘Blue Eyes’ and ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues’ on his 1986 tour).

“One of the first versions of the song that brought the song broader attention was by Andy Williams, in 1972. The Carpenters’ version, while not released as a single, was the title track to their 1972 hit album A Song for You (#4 on the Billboard Album chart; three Top-10 singles). Dusty Springfield recorded her version of ‘A Song for You’ for possible inclusion on the album See All Her Faces (1972) but the track went unreleased until 1996.

“Ray Charles recorded a poignant version of the song on his 1993 album My World. Released as a single, it reached #4 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles but still won for him a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.”

(They Long to Be) Close to You

First released (as “They Long to Be Close to You”) by Richard Chamberlain (1963).
Also recorded by Dionne Warwick (1963 |B-side 1964), Dusty Springfield (1964, released 1967), Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (1968, released 2005).
Hit version by the Carpenters (US #1/UK #6/CAN #1 1970).

From the wiki: “‘(They Long to Be) Close to You’ is a popular song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It was first released by Richard Chamberlain and released as a single in 1963 as ‘They Long to Be Close to You’ (without parentheses). However, it was the single’s flip side, ‘Blue Guitar’, that became a hit.

“Dusty Springfield recorded an early version of ‘Close to You’ in 1964, which was originally scheduled to be released as the follow-up single to ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do with Myself’. However, it wasn’t until 3 years later, in 1967, that her version was released – as an album track – on Where Am I Going? (in the UK) and The Look of Love (in the US).

“Dionne Warwick, Bacharach-David’s go-to vocalist, had been the first to record ‘(They Long to Be) Close to You’ – as a demo – in 1963. She re-recorded the song with a Bacharach arrangement for her 1964 album Make Way for Dionne Warwick, and Warwick’s version was released as the B-side of her 1965 single ‘Here I Am’.

For All We Know

Originally recorded by Larry Meredith (1970).
Hit versions by Shirley Bassey (UK #6 1971) and The Carpenters (US #3/MOR #1/UK #18/CAN #7 1971).

From the wiki: “‘For All We Know’ is a popular song written by Fred Karlin, Robb Wilson (Robb Royer) and Arthur James (Jimmy Griffin) for the 1970 film Lovers and Other Strangers, and for which it won the 1971 Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was originally performed by Larry Meredith for the movie soundtrack. Two of the songwriters, Royer and Griffin, were co-founders of the band Bread with David Gates.

Hurting Each Other

First recorded by Jimmy Clanton (1965).
Also recorded by Ruth Lewis (1966), The Walker Brothers (1966).
Hit versions by Chad Allan & The Expressions (CAN #19 1965), Ruby & The Romantics (US #113 1969), The Carpenters (US #2/MOR #1/CAN #2/AUS #4/NZ #7/JPN #56 1972).

From the wiki: “The earliest version of the song was recorded by Jimmy Clanton, the singer from New Orleans known as the ‘swamp pop R&B teenage idol’, in February 1965, produced by the song authors, Gary Geld and Peter Udell. He rode the crest of the popular teen music wave in the 1950s and 1960s. Seven of his records, including ‘Go, Jimmy, Go’, ‘Just a Dream’, and ‘Venus in Blue Jeans‘, charted in the U.S. Top 40.

“Chad Allan & The Expressions, from whom The Guess Who would later evolve (Randy Bachman, Jim Kale and Garry Peterson were original members; Burton Cummings replaced Allan in 1966), also recorded the song in 1965 on their Canadian LP Hey Ho (What You Do to Me) … teasingly subtited ‘Guess Who?’. Released as a single, ‘Hurting Each Other’ hit #19 on the Canadian charts in early 1966. In June 1966, a version by Ruth Lewis, produced again by the song’s writers, Geld and Udell, was released as a single by RCA Victor records without any apparent chart impact. A cover of ‘Hurting Each Other’ also appeared on The Walker Brothers’ second album, Portrait, which was released in November 1966 but their recording was not released as a single. However, ‘Hurting Each Other’ was the final single released by Ruby & The Romantics (‘Hey There, Lonely Girl‘) before the group’s break-up in 1969 and, even though it ‘Bubbled Under the Hot 100’, it was the first appearance of the song on a US music chart.

Solitaire (The Carpenters)

Written and first recorded by Neil Sedaka (1972).
Also recorded by Petula Clark (1972), The Searchers (1973).
Hit versions by Andy Williams (MOR #23/UK #4 1974), The Carpenters (US #17/MOR #1/UK #32 1975), Elvis Presley (1976 |B-side C&W #10 1979).

From the wiki: “Neil Sedaka recorded ‘Solitaire’ as the title cut for a UK-only 1972 album recorded at Strawberry Studios, Manchester. Members of the band 10cc – Lol Creme, Kevin Godley and Graham Gouldman – accompanied Sedaka while Eric Stewart, also of 10cc, engineered the session.

“Appearing on 1972 album releases by both Tony Christie and Petula Clark, ‘Solitaire’ had its first evident single release in February 1973 with a recording by The Searchers. However, it was the autumn 1973 single by Andy Williams which would reach #4 UK. In 1974, Sedaka’s original 1972 recording of ‘Solitaire’ was included on his comeback album Sedaka’s Back. Later in 1975, a live-in-concert version recorded by him at the Royal Festival Hall was issued as the B-side of ‘The Queen of 1964’.

Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again

First recorded by The Carpenters (1975) but not released until 1994.
Also recorded by David Pomeranz, composer (1975), Gene Pitney (1975).
Hit versions by Barry Manilow (US #10/MOR #1 1976), The Carpenters (UK #44 1994).

From the wiki: “‘Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again’ was written for The Carpenters by David Pomeranz, who also recorded his own version of it in 1975, for his 1976 album It’s In Everyone Of Us. The Carpenters’ version of ‘Tryin’ To Get The Feeling Again’ was taped during the Horizon recording sessions in 1975, but was shelved for being ‘one too many ballads.’ Seven years after production wrapped on the song, Richard was looking for songs to include on Voice of the Heart – the first album released after Karen’s untimely death in 1983. According to Richard, the basic but uncompleted rhythm tracks were located but it was thought any recording of Karen’s vocal had been permanently lost. Even though the final production vocal intended for the release of the record had been recorded over and was gone, Richard did find a ‘work lead’ in its place – hidden away on a master tape that also contained the song ‘Only Yesterday’.

I Just Fall in Love Again

First recorded by The Carpenters (1977).
Also recorded by Dusty Springfield (1978).
Hit version by Anne Murray (US #12/C&W #1/UK #58/CAN #1 1979).

From the wiki: “‘I Just Fall in Love Again’ was written by Larry Herbstritt, with co-writers Steve Dorff, Harry Lloyd, and Gloria Sklerov. It was first recorded by The Carpenters and later covered by Dusty Springfield, whose version inspired Anne Murray to record her own cover.

“The Carpenters’ arrangement was included on the duo’s 1977 album Passage. On the Carpenters’ official web site, Richard Carpenter notes that he felt the song was perfect for his sister Karen’s voice and felt their version had hit-single potential. However, A&M Records decided not to release it as a promotional single because it was considered too long for Top 40 radio stations to play at the time and could not be abridged.

Can’t Smile Without You

First recorded by David Martin (1975).
First released by The Carpenters (1976).
Also recorded by Engelbert Humperdinck (1976).
Hit version by Barry Manilow (US #3/MOR #1 1978).

From the wiki: “‘Can’t Smile Without You’ was written by David Martin, Christian Arnold and Geoff Morrow, and was first recorded by Martin in 1975. The Carpenters covered the song on their 1976 album A Kind of Hush, and it was featured as the B-side of their hit ‘Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft’ the following year. Engelbert Humperdinck also recorded the song in 1976, using the same lyrics as the original Carpenters version, on his After the Lovin’ album.

“‘Can’t Smile Without You’ was the first single to be released from Barry Manilow’s 1978 album Even Now, reaching the #1 spot on Billboard’s MOR chart and the #3 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.”

Let Me Be the One

First released by Nanette (released November 1970).
Also recorded by Cathy Carlson (released January 1971).
Hit album version by The Carpenters (released May 1971)
Hit single version by Jack Jones (MOR #18 1971).
Also recorded by Matthew Sweet (1994).

From the wiki: “The earliest evident recording of ‘Let Me Be the One’, written by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams, was made by Nanette Workman, one of five songs recorded with producer Tommy Cogbill in late June 1970 at American Sound Studio in Memphis, with her arrangement of ‘Let Me Be the One’ released as a UK single in November 1970 (credited to ‘Nanette’) with no apparent chart impact.

“The first recording to receive US distribution was recorded in December 1970 by Ontario, Oregon native Cathy Carlson, and released in January 1971 as the B-side to Carlson’s single, ‘God Bless the Child’. Carlson appeared regularly as a performer on ‘The Tonight Show’ in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, and on the annual Jerry Lewis Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy. Carlson and Lewis were such good friends, he became her daughter’s godfather.