Home > The Originals > The Originals Vol. 23

The Originals Vol. 23

This time, we”re looking at the originals (and, in some cases, more than one covers) of For Once In My Life, Dancing In The Moonlight, Money”s Too Tight (To Mention), Georgia On My Mind and Rainy Night In Georgia.

* * *

Jean DuShon – For Once In My Life (1966).mp3
Barbara McNair – For Once In My Life (1966).mp3
Stevie Wonder – For Once In My Life (1967/68).mp3

Jean DuShon

Jean DuShon

Ron Miller and Orlando Murden were staff writers for the Jobete publishing company which was owned by Motown. In 1966 they wrote For Once In My Life, but were still struggling with it. Miller asked the little-known singer, signed to Chess Records but then performing in a nightclub, singer Jean DuShon to work with him on the vocal arrangement. He was so impressed with DuShon”s interpretation that he had her record and release the record on Chess. Sadly Chess didn”t promote the record (some say due to pressure by Motown boss Berry Gordy), and it flopped. Hearing that the songwriters had given the song to a non-Motown artist, Berry Gordy insisted that it be immediately recorded by an act on his label. The song was given to Barbara McNair (whose stint at Motown was brief and who never was a priority for Gordy), and over the next few months was recorded by non-Motown artists, including Tony Bennett, who had a minor pop but decent easy listening charts hit with it.

steviewonder_foronceMotown regularly produced the same songs by different artists. In summer 1967, the Temptations recorded For Once In My Life, and included their take “” like all the others, read as a ballad “” in their live repertoire. At about the same time Stevie Wonder, still a teenager, gave it an exuberant, uptempo treatment. Gordy didn”t like Stevie”s versions and declined to release it. When, at the bidding of Billie Jean Brown, head of Motown”s Quality Control Department (!), it was released as a single (and title song of Stevie’s new LP) in late 1968, it became a massive hit, peaking at #2 (topping the charts was another Motown hit Gordy had previously vetoed, Marvin Gaye”s I Heard It Through The Grapevine).

Ron Miller wrote other hits for Stevie Wonder: Heaven Help Us All, Yester-Me Yester-You Yesterday, and A Place In The Sun. But before Stevie had a hit with For Once In My Life, it was considered Tony Bennett”s song. When Ella Fitzgerald introduced it on her 1968 Live in Berlin album (recorded before Stevie”s version was issued), she described it as Bennett”s song. A few years ago, Bennett and Wonder finally sang the song together, on the former”s album of duets. The pair took Grammies home for their efforts, and performed the song at the awards ceremony where Stevie dedicated it to his recently deceased mother and Bennett to”¦his sponsors.

Also recorded by: Barbara McNair (1966), Tony Bennett (1967, Carmen McRae (1967), Nancy Wilson (1968), Ella Fitzgerald (1968), Vikki Carr (1968), Dorothy Squires (1969), Jim Nabors (1969), Mantovani (1969), Erma Franklin (1969), Charlie Byrd (1969), Nancy Sinatra (1969), Andy Williams (1969), Slim Jim (1969), O.C. Smith (1969), Frank Sinatra (1969), Sammy Davis Jr. (1970), Bill Medley (1970), James Brown (1970), Kiki Dee (1970), Cilla Black (1970), Dean Martin (1971), John Farnham (1971), The Rance Allen Group (1973), Gladys Knight & The Pips (1973), Peter Nero (1974), Roberto Carlos (1979), Dean Martin (1986), Pia Zadora (1986), Frank Sinatra, Gladys Knight & Stevie Wonder (1994), Dionne Farris (1996), Jack Jones (1998), Patti Austin (1999), Trijntje Oosterhuis (1999), Vonda Shephered (2001), Justin Guarini (2002), Michael Bublé (2003), Natalia (2003), Harry Connick Jr (2004), Stefan Gwildis (as Es kommt eine Zeit, 2005), Michael Fucking Bolton (2006), Gilbert Montagné (2006), Michael McDonald (2008) a.o.


.
Boffalongo – Dancing In The Moonlight (1970).mp3
King Harvest – Dancing In The Moonlight (1972).mp3

boffalongoWhen Toploader had a UK top 10 hit with Dancing In The Moonlight in 2000, the question of who originally recorded the song became a popular piece of trivia. Most self-appointed quiz masters got it wrong. Dancing In The Moonlight was written by Sherman Kelly of the not very successful American band Boffalongo, which recorded the song in 1970. Sherman”s brother Wells was the drummer for King Harvest (named after the song by The Band), and introduced the song to his group, which recorded it in 1972 and had their one big hit with it.

The Toploader version, which I see no cause for featuring here, was a bit of a joke in that the singer even copied the frog-in-the-mouth diction of King Harvest singer (evraburdy’s dancin’ in moonlight). The Boffalongo version, it may be noted, also features some serious drawling.

Also recorded by: Young Generation (1973), Liza Minnelli (1973), The Keane Brothers (1979), M.O.T.O. (1991), Baha Man (1994), Joe Esposito (1996), Toploader (2000), Aswad (2002), David Kitt (2005), Orleans (2005), Jack Wagner (2005) a.o.
.

The Valentine Brothers – Money”s Too Tight (To Mention) (1982).mp3
Simply Red – Money”s Too Tight (To Mention) (1985).mp3

valentine-brothersThe lyrics of this song have recovered pertinence in the aftermath of greedy capitalist bastards selling the world economy down the toilet. The economy was not in a great state in the early “80s, so money was pretty tight then.

Money”s Too Tight To Mention was Simply Red”s breakthrough hit in the summer of 1985, creating what seemed to be a fresh take on an old soul number. It was, in fact, a cover of a song barely three years old (the Reaganomics reference, of course, hints at that). But even in its original form, the track sounds like a “60s throwback, musically and lyrically. The narrative borrows from down-on-luck numbers such as Sam Cooke”s A Change Is Gonna Come (absent the trace of optimism), and musically you can imagine Otis Redding singing it. Simply Red”s take is not wildly different from the funkier Valentine Brothers” version. And the iconic exclamation, “Cut-back!” is there in the original.

The Valentine Brothers, a duo from Ohio (one of whom, Billy, had been a member of jazz trio Young-Holt Unlimited), never enjoyed much success, their career fizzling out after a couple of albums. Billy Valentine still seems to be recording and writing. I”ve once read that, happily, the brothers didn”t sell the right to Money”s Too Tight, which will have brought in a fair amount of royalties.

Also recorded by: Nobody I could find
.

Hoagy Carmichael – Georgia On My Mind (1930).mp3
Mildred Bailey – Georgia On My Mind (1931).mp3
Billie Holiday – Georgia On My Mind (1941).mp3
Ray Charles – Georgia On My Mind (1960).mp3

hoagy-georgia-on-my-mindGeorgia On My Mind was a standard long before Ray Charles recorded it, but when he did, he made the song his own. It was written by Hoagy Carmichael and lyricist Stuart Gorrell in 1930. The Georgia of the title was originally intended to refer to Hoagy”s sister, but realising that the words could apply also to the southern US state, Carmichael and Gorrell were happy to keep things ambiguous. The plan worked: the song was a massive hit especially in the South, and since 1979 it has been the state song of Georgia (a better choice than the tourist-unfriendly Rainy Night In Georgia, the loser-comes-home Midnight Train To Georgia, or the infrastructure-deficient The Lights Went Out In Georgia).

Carmichael”s version features jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke on cornet. He died a few months later at 28, but Carmichael went on to enjoy a long career, and is perhaps even better known for Stardust and Heart And Soul than he is for Georgia (which he nonetheless re-recorded a few times). Frankie Trumbauer scored a hit with the song in 1931, as did Mildred Bailey with her very appealing version.

ray_charles_georgia1Ray Charles, who was born in Georgia but grew up in Florida, recorded his version in 1960, reportedly at the advice of his driver who had heard Ray sing it to himself in the car. It was an instant hit, topping the US charts, and became something of a signature tune for Ray. When Georgia adopted the song, two years before Hoagy”s death, it was Ray Charles who performed it at ceremony in Atlanta. Willie Nelson sang Georgia On My Mind at Ray”s funeral.

Also recorded by: Frankie Trumbauer & his Orchestra (1931), Milded Bailey (1932), Louis Armstrong (1932), Gene Krupa (1941), Billie Holiday (1941), Artie Shaw & his Orchestra (1942), Fats Waller (1942), Jo Stafford (1946), Peggy Lee (1946), Frankie Laine (1953), Dean Martin (1955), Eddy Arnold (1958), Lawrence Welk (1960), Rusty Draper (1960), Oscar Peterson Trio (1962), Lou Rawls (1963), Richard Chamberlain (1963), The Righteous Brothers (1963), Jimmy Smith (1963), Jackie Wilson (1965), The Spencer Davis Group (1965), Doc Severinsen (1966), Tom Jones (1966), Gonks (1966), Wes Montgomery (1968), Anita Kerr (1968), Jerry Reed (1969), Bobby “˜Blue” Bland (1969), James Brown (1970), Geoff & Maria Muldaur (1970), Herbie Mann (1973), Glenn Barber (1974), The Band (1976), Mike Auldridge (1976), Deep Purple (1976), Jerry Lee Lewis (1977), Jerry Lee Lewis (1977), Willie Nelson (1978), Cold Chisel (1978), Mina (1978), Willie Nelson (1980), Nat Gonella (1981), Ella Fitzgerald & Joe Pass (1983), Stanley Jordan (1987), Michael Fucking Bolton (1989), George Adams (1989), Maceo Parker (1992), James Brown (1992), Bobby Kimball (1993), Shirley Horn (1993), Emilio Aragón & Greta (1996), Günther Neefs (1997), Crystal Gayle (1999), Roderick Paulin (1999), Coco Schumann (1999), Boston Brass (2001), Van Morrison (2002), Booker T. & the MG’s (previously unreleased, 2003), Steve Tyrell (2003), Joeri (2004), John Scofield (2005), Nicoletta (2006), Gerald Albright (2006), Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues feat. india.arie (2006), Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis (2008), Russell Watson (2008) a.o.
.

Tony Joe White – Rainy Night In Georgia (1969).mp3
Brook Benton – Rainy Night In Georgia (1970).mp3
Ray Charles – Rainy Night In Georgia (1972).mp3
Randy Crawford – Rainy Night In Georgia (1981).mp3

tony-joe-whiteLouisiana-born “swamp rocker” Tony Joe White was only19 when he wrote Rainy Night In Georgia in 1962. He didn”t release the song until seven later, and even then it was his Polk Salad Annie which grabbed all the attention (covered to good effect by Elvis). At the same time, deep-voiced soul veteran Brook Benton was looking for a hit to launch his comeback on an Atlantic subsidiary, Cottillion Records. The legendary Jerry Wexler alerted Benton to White”s song, and the singer scored a massive 1970 hit with his version, produced by the great Arif Mardin.

brook_bentonRainy Night In Georgia has been recorded many times (ex-Temptations singer David Ruffin put down a version at about the same time as Benton did; it was not released until 2004), as soul and as country songs. Ray Charles (1972) put his own blues spin on it, taking the tune to unexpected places. But my favourite version is that from 1981 by Randy Crawford, one of soul”s finest but least appreciated singers, whose clear and warm voice captures the resigned spirit of the lyrics exquisitely.

Also recorded by: Nat Stuckey (1970), Boots Randolph (1970), Johnny Rivers (1970), Ken Parker (1970), Wynn Stewart (1970), Tennessee Ernie Ford (1971), Hank Williams Jr (1974), John Holt (1977), Tony Worsley (1990), Amos Garrett (1992), Ross Hanniford Trio (1994), Sam Moore & Conway Twitty (1994), Beaucoup Blue (2005), Boozoo Bajou (2006), Hem (2006), Aaron Neville feat. Chris Botti (2006) a.o.

.

More Originals

Be Sociable, Share!
  1. Rhod
    May 1st, 2009 at 23:41 | #1

    Love the Original series, keep up the good work.

    Regards

    Rhod

  2. KathyR
    May 2nd, 2009 at 17:09 | #2

    “Michael Fucking Bolton”

    You’re my hero.

  3. May 5th, 2009 at 19:19 | #3

    “Rainy Night In Georgia”was one of the first songs I loved when I began listening to Top 40. Tony Joe White’s version is good, as are others, but to me, it’s always going to be Brook Benton’s tune. Nice work, as alway!

  4. esteban
    June 1st, 2009 at 17:35 | #4

    Hi Man:
    Thanks for your time and excellent music, I love your posts, What about Claude Bolling & Jean Pierre Rampal: Suite for flute & jazz piano trio; Suite for flute & jazz piano trio no. 2; Bolling & Hubert Laws California Suite?

    Best wishes,
    Esteban

    P. D.: this comment is for your serie Any Major Flute

  1. No trackbacks yet.