Song of the Day, March 27: I Heard It Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye

GayeGrapevineToday’s song is I Heard It Through the Grapevine, the R&B classic written in 1966 by the superstar team of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. House writers for Motown at the time, the pair intended it for the Miracles but were asked to tighten it up. Marvin Gaye recorded his version, which was relegated to album track status, and Gladys Knight and the Pips had the first major hit version [#2, #1 R&B for six weeks]. When Gaye’s album In the Groove came out, however, DJs picked up on his interpretation and started playing it. Berry Gordy finally relented and released this version as a single. It was a massive success, topping both charts for seven weeks almost exactly a year after Knight’s success.

It’s one of the most famous Motown songs, a classic track of betrayal and simmering anger. Gaye’s strong voice is a perfect fit as he manages to be both smooth and searing. Whitfield, who also produced the single, had him sing in a higher key, providing a nice edge to the vocal. With a menacing rhythm track from the Funk Brothers and great counterpoint harmonies from the Andantes, it’s a masterpiece of studio work.

Enjoy this brilliant classic today.

BONUS VERSION: Grapevine has been covered dozens of times by a wide variety of artists and even managed to top the R&B charts a third time. Folk rock legends Fairport Convention, fond of an uexpected musical turn, provided attendees at their annual Cropredy festival with a special treat in 1995. They turned in a rousing cover of the song, with former Fairport member Richard Thompson providing a delightful lead vocal.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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