When I think about classic 60s R&B, I break the artists down into three categories. Motown, Atlantic, and others. Motown and Atlantic were the big shots, and the others were more regional labels like Stax in Memphis and Philadelphia International. Motown had consistent, almost formulaic, songwriting teams and artists like The Four Tops, The Temptations, and The Supremes. Atlantic was grittier and more varied in their songwriting, with artists like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Wilson Pickett. Motown was primarily an R&B label, though they did sign Rare Earth and, weirdly, Jackson Browne’s singer-songwriter brother Severin. The Atlantic stable, on the other hand, was filled with not only R&B acts, but some of rock’s biggest stars. Now, with a few exceptions, if you look back at radio play and album sales you’ll see the charts were pretty segregated. If you turned on an R&B radio station you weren’t going to hear Bob Dylan or The Beatles any more than you were going to hear Gladys Knight and the Pips on an FM rock station. Now the exceptions that I mentioned were the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Sly and the Family Stone who could pop up on either format.
So while it’s true that most of the artists didn’t cross-over from one format to the other, the songs did. A few examples? Aretha Franklin had a huge hit with Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” She also charted with songs by Lennon and McCartney, Elton John, and The Band. You’ll find a cover of Todd Rundgren’s “We Gotta Get You a Woman” on the Four Tops greatest hits. And Wilson Pickett hit the charts with a cover of “Hey Jude,” which, by the way, featured Duane Allman on guitar. And today’s batch of AHMV just goes to show that this cross-over of songs wasn’t a one-way street. Rock and rollers loved to cover the songs of Holland-Dozier-and-Holland, Isaac Hayes, and others. I think I’ll just let the songs speak for themselves, starting with one I’ve been wanting to play for a long time. Here’s Graham Parker covering The Jackson Five.
|Graham Parker||I Want You Back|
|The Rascals||In the Midnight Hour|
|The Rolling Stones||Ain’t Too Proud to Beg|
|Elvin Bishop||My Girl|
|The Blues Brothers||Soul Man|
|Phil Collins||You Can’t Hurry Love|
|J. Geils Band||Where Did Our Love Go?|
|Creedence Clearwater Revival||I Heard it Through the Grapevine|
Wrapping up a set of classic R&B tunes as interpreted by some of rock’s biggest names, there’s a song with a complicated history. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong in 1966, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” was first recorded by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles but Barry Gordy didn’t think it was single material so that version wasn’t released. Marvin Gaye then recorded a version but it wasn’t released either. Then Gladys Knight and the Pips recorded it and it topped the R&B charts in 1967. After that, Whitfield again suggested Motown release the Marvin Gaye version as a single. Gordy thought that was a bad idea since Gladys Knight had already had a hit with it. But they included it on Marvin’s 1968 album, In The Groove. It became the most played song from the album and deejays prevailed upon Motown to release it as a single which they did. It topped the charts for seven weeks and eventually outsold the Pips version. After that, Motown re-issued the album, retitled I Heard It Through the Grapevine. CCR recorded an eleven minute version for the album Cosmos Factory in 1970. We just heard the edited radio single version that was released a few years later, after CCR had already broken up.
Before that, J. Geils and Phil Collins both covering songs made famous by The Supremes. The Blues Brothers gave us their cover of Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man.” Elsewhere The Rascals, The Stones, and Elvin Bishop, covering Wilson Picket, The Temptations, and Smokey Robinson. And we opened with a favorite of mine, Graham Parker’s take on the Jackson Five hit, “I Want You Back,” played off my old 45… Well, like the Stones, I ain’t too proud to beg either. So next time you’re out surfing, drop by our Facebook Page or my website or track me down on Amazon. I’m Bill Fitzhugh, thanks for listening. I’ll be back sooner or later with another batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl and I hope you’ll join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.