Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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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.

“Richard Carpenter also saw the same Crocker Bank TV commercial and guessed correctly that it was Paul Williams singing (both of them were under contract to A&M records). Carpenter ran into Williams on the record company’s lot and asked if a full-length version was available. ‘Why, yes, Richard! Yes, there is!’

“Released in the late summer of 1970, The Carpenters’ single featured Karen’s lead vocals and the overdubbed harmonies of both siblings. Carpenter selected the composition for the duo’s third single and included it on the LP Close to You. The single peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 (#1 Adult Contemporary), becoming the pair’s second million-selling Gold single. It was considered by both Karen and Richard to be their signature song.

“The song also helped The Carpenters win two Grammy Awards in 1971. ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ was ranked at #405 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

“For Williams, the song was a personal victory; it was his first collaboration with Nichols that had resulted in a hit single, and it opened the door to many more thereafter. In 1998, the recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for recordings ‘of lasting quality or historical significance’.

“Curtis Mayfield also recorded a version of ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’, in 1971, a performance at The Bitter End, releasing it on his Curtis Live! album. The album charted #21 Pop, #3 Soul and #9 Jazz in the US.”

Freddie Allen (Smokey Roberds), “We’ve Only Just Begun” (1970):

The Carpenters, “We’ve Only Just Begun” (1970):

Curtis Mayfield, “We’ve Only Just Begun” live at The Bitter End, NYC (1971):

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