Friday, January 27, 2012

The Soul Corner - "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"

I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Not one, not two but three hit versions by different major artists. That's a song. One of the best by the legendary Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong Motown songwriting team.

First up, Gladys Knight and the Pips 1967 release. Motown is known for its polished pop-flavored singers like Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. But it's the rough hewn ones like Levi Stubbs, David Ruffin and Gladys Knight that I love most. And this recording, which reached #1 on the R&B charts and #2 on the top 40 charts, is one of Gladys Knight's very best. This arrangement is said to have been inspired by Aretha Franklin's version of "Respect". The lip synching here is well worth putting up with to get that great dancing by the studio guests:

My man Marvin Gaye's 1968 version was actually recorded before Gladys Knight's rendition but released a year later. A much silkier approach, with the Funk Brothers house band being backed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. It was a huge #1 smash hit.

Then the rock'n'roll swampy cover by the great Creedence Clearwater Revival from 1970. This release of such a well known black music hit by a white artist actually caused CCR to be banned from some radio stations in Alabama and have bookings there cancelled. I can't find a good You Tube of the full on 11 minute version but here's the 4 minute radio single version:

But the first version of the song was by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, not available in a format I can link here.


Frank Fahey said...

Zapp (Roger Troutman) had a version which hit #1 on the R&B charts,

Here's a link:

John Hyland said...

You know the way Marvin sings "surprise"? I think singers have been trying to hit that note ever since then. He was one of a kind.