I originally planned to go more outside the box (a phrase I dislike but find useful) but this is too great a song and story to skip.
“I Heard It Through the Grapevine” is a song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for Motown Records in 1966, and made famous by Marvin Gaye in a single released in October 1968 on Motown’s Tamla label.
Originally recorded by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles in 1966, that version was rejected by Motown owner Berry Gordy, who told Whitfield and Strong to make it stronger. After recording the song with Marvin Gaye in 1967, which Gordy also rejected, Whitfield produced a version with Gladys Knight & the Pips, which Gordy agreed to release as a single in September 1967, and which went to number two in the Billboard chart. The Marvin Gaye version was placed on his 1968 album In the Groove, where it gained the attention of radio disc jockeys, and Gordy finally agreed to its release as a single in October 1968, when it went to the top of the Billboard Pop Singles chart for seven weeks from December 1968 to January 1969 and became for a time the biggest hit single on the Motown label.
This is the second tune I’ve posted from the songwriting team of Whitfield and Strong this week. I have an easy explanation for this duplication: they were GREAT. In addition to GladysKnight and Marvin Gaye’s versions, there have been quite a few outstanding rock versions. I’ve picked out two: one of which you’re certainly familiar with and the other not so much.
First, Gladys Knight & the Pips. I had a friend who always called them the pimps. I always wanted him to run into Ms. Knight tell her that and get slapped. It’s not much of a dream but it’s mine:
Now for the late, great Marvin Gaye. The sinuous strings *make* this version:
Here’s the rock version everyone knows. Time for a trip to Cosmo’s Factory:
Up next is a version from 1997 at one of my favorite events, Cropredy; featuring Fairport Convention with Richard Thompson on lead vox and Roy Wood’s band Wizzard providing most of the horns and strings. A big sentence for a big band:
Finally, a version I just stumbled upon. That makes it 5, that’s a lot of soul food gossip to digest. It features Amy Winehouse, Paul Weller, and the Jools Holland Orchestra: