…1968’s Lady Soul proved Aretha Franklin, the pop sensation, was no fluke. Her performances were more impassioned than on her debut, and the material just as strong, an inspired blend of covers and originals from the best songwriters in soul and pop music.
~John Bush (allmusic.com)
“…Take a picture of this The fields are empty, abandoned ’59 Chevy Laying in the back seat listening to Little Willie John Yea, that’s when time stood still…” – Robbie Robertson – Somewhere Down The Crazy River
William Edward “Little Willie” John (November 15, 1937 – May 26, 1968) was an American rock ‘n’ roll and R&B singer who performed in the 1950s and early 1960s. He is best known for his successes on the record charts, with songs such as “All Around the World” (1955), “Need Your Love So Bad” (1956), and “Fever” (1956). An important figure in R&B music of the 1950s, John was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
I Heard It Through the Grapevine” isn’t a plea to save a love affair; it’s Marvin Gaye’s essay on salvaging the human spirit. The record distills four hundred years of paranoia and talking drum gossip into three minutes and fifteen seconds of anguished soul-searching.
~Dave Marsh (The Heart of Rock & Soul)
October 30, 1968
April 10, 1967
Hitsville USA (Studio A), (Detroit, Michigan)
“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. The Gaye recording has since become acclaimed a soul classic:
in 2004, it was placed on the Rolling Stone 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, Marvin Gaye’s “Grapevine” was ranked 65th
It was also inducted to the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic and significant” value
Live at Montreux, 1980:
Whitfield recorded the song with Marvin Gaye over five sessions, the first on February 3, 1967, and the final one on April 10, 1967. Recordings of this version took more than a month due to Whitfield overdubbing Gaye’s vocals with that of the Andantes’ background vocals, mixing in several tracks featuring the Funk Brothers on the rhythm track, and adding the string section from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with an arrangement by Paul Riser. The session featuring Gaye led to an argument between the producer and singer. Whitfield wanted Gaye to perform the song in a higher key than his normal range, a move that had worked on David Ruffin during the recording of the Temptations’ hit, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”. The mixture of Gaye’s raspy vocals and the Andantes’ sweeter harmonies, made Whitfield confident that he had a hit; however, despite approval from Motown’s Quality Control Department, Gordy blocked the release.
Lead vocals by Marvin Gaye
Background vocals by The Andantes: Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow and Louvain Demps
Instrumentation by the Funk Brothers and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Sinatra, and Bing Crosby before him, had been masters of words. Ray Charles is a master of sounds. His records disclose an extraordinary assortment of slurs, glides, turns, shrieks, wails, breaks, shouts, screams and hollers, all wonderfully controlled, disciplined by inspired musicianship, and harnessed to ingenious subtleties of harmony, dynamics and rhythm… It is either the singing of a man whose vocabulary is inadequate to express what is in his heart and mind or of one whose feelings are too intense for satisfactory verbal or conventionally melodic articulation. He can’t tell it to you. He can’t even sing it to you. He has to cry out to you, or shout to you, in tones eloquent of despair — or exaltation. The voice alone, with little assistance from the text or the notated music, conveys the message.