Friday, December 14, 2018

Marvin Gaye hit #1 with “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” 50 years ago today (12/14/1968)

First posted 11/16/2011; updated 4/8/2020.

I Heard It Through the Grapevine

Marvin Gaye

Writer(s): Barrett Strong/Norman Whitfield (see lyrics here)

Released: October 30 1968

First Charted: November 16, 1968

Peak: 17 US, 15 CB, 11 HR, 17 RB, 13 UK, 8 CN, 40 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, -- UK, 6.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 6.0 radio, 64.5 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

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 Naturally it became Gaye’s first pop #1 and biggest hit, as well as Motown’s longest running #1 to date. BR1

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 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 was more aligned with the song’s lyrical theme. TB 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 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

Resources and Related Links:

  • Marvin Gaye’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 249.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Page 2.
  • RSP Rolling Stone. (September 8, 1988; Issue 534)."The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years." New York, NY; Straight Arrow Publishing Company. Page 65.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (12/04). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 106.
  • WK

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