Song Draft 2021 – Pick 5 – I Heard It Through the Grapevine

As the Song Draft continues, we have come to my fifth pick. I have noticed that I have primarily leaned very “local”. In all honesty, I don’t think I did this intentionally. I have featured songs from my home state of Michigan, and primarily from the Detroit area. I would be remiss if I did not include a song from the Motown Label.

I thought long and hard about just which song to pick. As I looked through the LONG list of Motown groups, I saw The Four Tops, The Supremes, The Temptations, Edwin Starr, Marvin Gaye, The Marvelettes, Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Isley Brothers, Mary Wells, Tammi Terrell, The Spinners and more! There were so many artists to chose from.

Now look at that list of artists again, and imagine the list of songs associated with them! The amount of hits (and non hits) produced out of Motown are plenty. However, as I looked through the list of songs, there was one stand out. I dare say that the song is THE BEST of all of the Motown songs. That song, and my fifth pick for the 2021 Song Draft, is I Heard It Through the Grapevine.

The song was written by another Motown artist, Barrett Strong.

Barrett is famous for his song Money (which was once covered by the Beatles) and for writing other songs like Papa Was a Rolling Stone. He got the idea for the song when he was living in Chicago and heard lots of people using the phrase “I heard it through the grapevine.” Barrett said, “Nobody wrote a song about it, so I sat at a piano and came up with the bass line.” 

From Song Facts:

The classic about a man who finds out his woman is cheating on him was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. Strong came up with the idea and asked Motown writers Holland-Dozier-Holland to work on it with him. They refused to credit another writer, so Strong took it to Whitfield, who helped put it together. The song eventually became a Motown classic, but it had a rough start, as executives at the company thought it was too bluesy and lacked hit potential.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were the first to record the song, but their version wasn’t released until years later on an album called Special Occasion. The Isley Brothers then took a crack at it, but their version wasn’t released. Whitfield and Strong then had Marvin Gaye record the song but still no luck: Motown head Berry Gordy chose Holland-Dozier-Holland’s “Your Unchanging Love” over “Grapevine” as his next single. Finally, a new Motown act Gladys Knight and the Pips recorded the song as a gospel rocker. Their version was a hit, entering the Top 40 in November 1967 and going to #2 in America.

Marvin Gaye’s version was included on his 1968 album In The Groove (later re-titled I Heard It Through The Grapevine). After E. Rodney Jones, the Chicago disc jockey at WVON, started playing it on the air, Berry Gordy reconsidered and released Gaye’s version as a single, which became even more popular and known as the definitive version of the song. Gaye’s “Grapevine” pounded the charts about a year after Knight’s, going to #1 in America on December 14, 1968.

On the Motown Box Set, Gladys Knight’s version and Marvin’s version are included. If I had to chose which version I like more, I’d lean more Marvin. However, that being said, Gladys version is really cool too. Hers has a more uptempo feel to it, the bass line (played by James Jamerson in both versions) is extra funky and I love to listen to the drum work in it. Check it out here:

Then you get to Marvin’s version. Slower, groovier, and perfect.

What makes Marvin’s so special? According to Song Facts: Marvin Gaye wrung out the emotion in the song thanks to Norman Whitfield, who produced the track and gave him very specific instructions. Whitfield had Gaye sing slightly higher than his normal range, which created the strained vocal, and he made him do it over and over until he got it right. Gaye explained to NME: “I simply took direction, as I felt the direction he was expounding was a proper one. Had I done it myself I would not have sung it at all like that, but y’see there are many benefits in just singing other people’s material and taking directions. The job of interpreting is quite an important one, because when people are not able to express what is in their souls if there is an artist who can… then I think that is very valuable.”

With that in mind, one of the most amazing videos on YouTube is this version of Grapevine where Marvin’s vocal is isolated. I still get chills listening to the perfection in his voice.

WOW! Just WOW!!

Heard It Through The Grapevine – Lyrics

Ooh-ooh, bet you’re wond’ring how I knew
‘Bout your plans to make me blue
With some other guy that you knew before
Between the two of us guys, you know I love you more

It took me by surprise I must say
When I found out yesterday

Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine
Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine
And I’m just about to lose my mind
Honey honey yeah

You know that a man ain’t supposed to cry
But these tears I can’t, hold inside
Losin’ you would end my life you see
‘Cause you mean that much to me

You could have told me yourself
That you found someone else

Instead I heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine
Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine
And I’m just about to lose my mind
Honey honey yeah

People say you have from what you see
And not not not from what you hear
I can’t help, bein’ confused
If it’s true, won’t you tell me dear

Do you plan to let me go
For the other guy that you knew before

Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine
Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine
And I’m just about to lose my mind
Honey honey yeah

Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine
Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine
And I’m just about to lose my mind

Ooh-ooh I heard it through the grapevine

Tune Tuesday – Pride and Joy

The song in my head on this Tune Tuesday is a two-minute masterpiece from one of the greatest voices to come out of Motown – Marvin Gaye.  Yesterday would have been his 80th birthday.  In his short, but amazing career, he had many hits which included I’ll Be Doggone, What’s Going On?, Sexual Healing, Can I Get a Witness?, and, of course, I Heard It Through the Grapevine.  I could have easily picked any one of those today, but instead, I chose one of his early (and sometimes overlooked) classics – Pride and Joy.

early-marvin-g

The song opens with a “question and answer” between the bass guitar and piano and from the moment Marvin begins singing, the bass and the piano bounce along with him as he sings.  The bass bounces along with the piano just seems to be playing around in the background, and it just sounds fun.

The song was recorded in 1962 and released in 1963.  The instrumentation on the song is performed by The Funk Brothers.  The background singers on the song are none other than Martha and the Vandellas, who would go on to have great success a few weeks later with their song “Heatwave.”   The song is soulful, playful, and perfect.

Lyrically, the song is a simple love song (supposedly written for Marvin’s girlfriend at the time Anna Gordy – Motown founder Barry Gordy’s sister).  Marvin’s vocal is spot on.  The “question and answer” that started with the bass and piano now is exchanged by Marvin and the background singers.  There is almost a “gospel” feel to the song.  I love how Marvin can bounce from higher notes to lower ones and make it sound so effortless. The song would go on to become Marvin’s first Top 10 record.

Pride_and_joy_singlecover

“Pride And Joy”

You are my pride and joy
And I just love you, love you darlin’
Like a baby boy loves his toy
You’ve got kisses sweeter than honey
And I work seven days a week to givea you all my money
And that’s why you’re my pride and joy

And I’m tellin’ the world
You’re my (pride and joy) pride and joy (pride and joy)
I believe I’m your (baby boy) baby boy (baby boy)
And I know you’re mine (pride and joy)
My pride and joy (pride and joy)
Yeah baby (baby boy) Yeah baby (baby boy)

You, you are my pride and joy
And a love like mine, yeah baby
It’s something nobody can ever destroy
You pick me up (pick me up) when I’m down (when I’m down)
And when we go out, pretty baby
You shake up the whole town (whole town)
And that’s why (that’s why)
I believe you’re my (you’re my) pride and joy (pride and joy)

(Pride and joy)[x4] (baby boy)[x2]
(Pride and joy) My pride and joy (pride and joy)
And I love you like a baby loves his toy (pride and joy)

Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah (pride and joy) My pride and joy (pride and joy)

Oh Oh (pride and joy) In the morning (pride and joy)

And I’m your baby boy (baby boy)(song fades)