Gladys Knight is 70

Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye) was, appropriately, one of Gladys Knight & the Pips’ last songs at Motown.

Also used for ABC Wednesday, Round 15 – K is for Knight:

Gladys Knight & the Pips, if I had thought of them, I could have put in my weekly family music groups. One of those pieces of trivia I’ve long known is that “at the age of seven in 1952, she won Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour television show contest.” In 1953, Gladys,” her brother Bubba, sister Brenda, and their cousins William and Eleanor Guest started a singing group called ‘The Pips’ (named after another cousin, James ‘Pip’ Woods). The Pips began to perform and tour, eventually replacing Brenda Knight and Eleanor Guest with Langston George in 1959 and Edward Patten in 1963.”

I felt a bit badly for Gladys and the Pips during their tenure at Motown. They were getting a lot of the same songs as the Temptations’ album cuts. Moreover, their biggest hit on the label, Grapevine, was bested on the charts by Marvin Gaye the next year. I remember reading in the press how frustrated the group was when people would ask them why they were doing Marvin’s song.

They moved to Buddah Records in 1973 and later went to Columbia.

Here’s a bit I thought was hysterically funny at the time:

In 1977, the Pips (minus Gladys) appeared on comedian Richard Pryor’s TV special that aired on NBC. They sang their normal backup verses for the… “Midnight Train to Georgia;” during the parts where Gladys would sing, the camera panned on a lone-standing microphone.

The group, which broke up in 1989, when Gladys decided to be a solo artist, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

My favorite songs; LISTEN to all:

15. Every Beat of My Heart (US #6 in 1961) – that early hit; it’d be a while before their next one
14. The End of Our Road (US #15 in 1968) – one of those songs also recorded by the Tempts
13. Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me (US #3; UK #7 in 1974)
12. Friendship Train (US #17 in 1969) – might even be the Tempts’ same musical arrangement
11. The Nitty Gritty (US #19 in 1969)

10. I Don’t Want to Do Wrong (US #17 in 1971)
9. You Need Love Like I Do (Don’t You) (US #25 in 1970) – another Tempts song
8. It Should Have Been Me (US #40 in 1968) – the variation on the Wedding March in the beginning always tickled me
7. Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye) (US #2 in 1973). Appropriately, one of their last songs at Motown.
6. Take Me in Your Arms and Love Me (US #98; UK #13 in 1967) – can’t believe this didn’t do better in the States

5. Daddy Could Swear, I Declare (US #19 in 1973). I even forgive the rhyming of write and right.
4. If I Were Your Woman (US #9 in 1970)
3. I’ve Got to Use My Imagination (US #4 in 1973)
2. Midnight Train to Georgia (US #1 in 1973; UK #10 in 1976)
1. I Heard It Through the Grapevine (US #2 in 1967) – I suppose it’s sacrilege to say, but I’ve always preferred this version to Marvin’s, or Smokey’s, or CCR’s…

From Which “Grapevine” Did You Hear It?

Which iteration should be considered the original? Surely, one could make a case for the Miracles’ version. But many experts would pick the version first released, and that would be the Pips’.

I love good cover versions of songs. Came across a rather fine list from Popdose. And I so agree with the opening statement: “It’s generally agreed upon that if you don’t have any new flavor to add to the original, you shouldn’t bother doing a cover.”

Certainly can’t argue with the top two, “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, originally performed by Otis Redding; and “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix, originally done by Bob Dylan. Both of the original artists have acknowledged the transformative nature of these covers. A previous list I saw contained songs that I had never heard of in the Top 10, which I discovered were less than six years old; seems to me these songs need to stand the test of time

But I have one nit to pick over this list, and it’s around the song “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” As noted here and elsewhere, the song by Motown staff writers Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong was first recorded by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles on August 6, 1966. And Marvin Gaye recorded his version on April 10, 1967. But Berry Gordy, the head of Motown, hated the song & vetoed the releases by both artists.

Gladys Knight and the Pips’ version* was recorded next, and was very reluctantly released by Gordy. It went to #1 on the R&B charts for six weeks, and to #2 on the pop charts for three weeks in the fall of 1967.

It was only after this point that the other two versions were released. The Miracles’ was just an album cut, but Marvin Gaye’s single was #1 for seven weeks on both the R&B and pop charts in the late fall of 1968, a Grammy Hall of Fame winner in 2001. “Gaye’s version has since become a landmark in pop music. In 2004, it ranked No.80 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. On the commemorative 50th Anniversary of the Billboard Hot 100 issue of Billboard magazine in June 2008, Gaye’s version was ranked as the 65th biggest song on the chart.”

So two questions exist for me: first, which iteration should be considered the original? Surely, one could make a case for the Miracles’ version. But many experts, such as Brian Ibbott of Coverville, would pick the version first released, and that would be the Pips’.

Also, how could the panel pick the perfectly fine version of this song by Creedence Clearwater Revival* over the Marvin Gaye classic, even if the latter did get overplayed in the 1980s, around the time of the movie the Big Chill? Not so incidentally, I don’t own the Miracles’ version, but I do have CCR, Gaye, and the Pips, which is actually my favorite take.

And while I’m thinking about Marvin, I would definitely find room on that covers list for Wherever I Lay My Hat, originally done by Gaye, but covered by Paul Young.

*Link to the music

A Solstice Tradition Continues: Ask Roger ANYTHING!

It is once again time for the operator of this blog to hand over the keys, so to speak when you ask him anything you want. And he HAS to answer. Now he may answer with obfuscation, but he cannot outright lie.

Here are some examples:
What is my favorite song performed by one artist, made more popular by a subsequent artist, but the version I prefer is by the former? (Got that?)

The answer: I Heard It Through the Grapevine, a big, #2 hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips, only to be trumped by Marvin Gaye’s much slower, much more successful, take. In part, I felt bad for the Pips when they would go on the road and people would ask them, “Why are you doing that Marvin Gaye song?”, which had to be irritating to GK&P, enough so that they left Motown at their first opportunity. Moreover, the resurrection of Gaye’s version during the Big Chill movie’s popularity made it become actually irritating to me for a time.

(Rather how I feel about the once perfectly fine Brown-Eyed Girl by Van Morrison, and other songs I hear too often.) But tell me: in this version, can YOU only really hear Marvin’s vocal, as I do? THIS is really cool.

Who was I rooting for in the NBA playoffs?

Actually, I don’t really follow the NBA all that much. That said, I started tiring of hearing about the “inevitable” Cleveland/LA Lakers finals, so I ended up rooting for the Boston Celtics, pretty much as a reaction to the pundits.

Post your questions in the comments, or e-mail me. I’ll use your name unless you specifically request otherwise. Of course, if you don’t leave your name, my chances of being snarky are DRAMATICALLY increased. Sooner, rather than later, I’ll answer your questions in this blog.

Oh, yeah, and since a question (of five words or more) is considered a comment, you’ll also get an entry in my GIVEAWAY; see sidebar for details.

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