|First posted 11/16/2011; updated 4/19/2019.|
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Writer(s): Barrett Strong/Norman Whitfield (see lyrics here)
First Charted: 11/16/1968
Peak: 17 US, 15 CB, 11 HR, 17 RB, 13 UK, 8 CN, 40 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales *: 4.0 US, -- UK, 5.0 world (includes US + UK)
Radio Airplay *: 6.0
Video Airplay *: 50.5
Streaming *: --
* in millions
Marvin didn’t want to record it, RS500 Motown didn’t want to release it, RSP and the company head honcho thought it was horrible. BR1-249 Naturally it became Gaye’s first pop #1 and biggest hit, as well as Motown’s longest running #1 to date. BR1-249
Norman Whitfield, a producer for Motown, had a habit of pushing the same song on multiple acts. While it frustrated some of his charges, it also worked, at least on occasion. Never was that more the case than with Gaye’s cover of “Grapevine.” RS500 First the Miracles put their spin on it, then the Isley Brothers, whose version is still locked somewhere in the Motown vaults. BR1-249 In 1967, both Gaye and Gladys Knight & The Pips tackled it. WK Before year’s end, the Pips had a #1 R&B and #2 pop hit with it.
Gaye’s version, which was slower and spookier than the Pips’ “journeyman rendition,” MA-2 was more aligned with the song’s lyrical theme. TB-106 When they were recording the song, Whitfield encouraged the reluctanct Gaye to sing in a high, raspy voice. As was generally the case, Whitfield got his way. WK
Even while seemingly everyone else at Motown thumbed their noses at it, Whitfield championed Gaye’s “Grapevine.” Gordy finally threw Whitfield a bone and, while still unwilling to release it as a single, agreed to include the song on Gaye’s In the Groove album. TB-106 Once the song finally saw the light of day, radio DJ’s discovered it and began spinning it. Once the song was an obvious hit, Gordy finally gave in and allowed the single to be released. WK
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