Fun facts: Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. His father, John A. Chaffetz, was previously married to Katherine (Kitty) Dickson, and they had one son, John. Later, John Sr. married Jason’s mother, Margaret A. Wood. Kitty subsequently married Michael Dukakis (D-MA), the now-former governor. Jason worked on Michael Dukakis’ 1988 Presidential campaign.
The “problem” with putting together this list is that I’ve far too often heard many of the songs by another artist first, before Smokey and the Miracles, and that tends to be my association. For instance, I’ll Try Something New (# 11 on the rhythm and blues/soul chart – listed as RB, #39 on the pop charts in 1962) I associate as a song by the Supremes and the Temptations on their Join album. So I’m ranking these by my favorites, as performed by Smokey, usually with the Miracles. LISTEN to all.
15. Who’s Lovin’ You (B-side of Shop Around) – I associate this more with a preternaturally old preteen Michael Jackson singing this on the Jackson 5’s first album.
3. The Tracks of My Tears (2rb, 16 in 1965). Interesting that two of my top three have the word “tears” in the title.
2. I Second That Emotion (1rb, 4 in 1968). As is true with many great pop lyrics, this came from a mistake, with Smokey and a friend at a department store. One person said something and the other meant to say, “I second the motion,” but misspoke. This song Smokey covered with the Manhattan Transfer on the Tonin’ album features other artists doing their own songs (Let’s Hang On with Frankie Valli of the 4 Seasons, Groovin’ with Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals, et al.)
Stevie Wonder and his producer Hank Cosby wrote the music for the song, and Cosby produced the instrumental track recording. Wonder brought the instrumental track to the 1966 Motown Christmas party because he could not come up with a lyric to fit the instrumental. Wonder wanted to see what Robinson could come up with for the track. Robinson, who remarked that the song’s distinctive calliope motif “sounded like a circus,” provided lyrics that reflected his vision. In the song, his character, sad because he does not have a woman who loves him, compares himself to the characters in the opera Pagliacci, comedians/clowns who hide their hurt and anger behind empty smiles.
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.