The Day Marvin Gaye Heard it Through the Grapevine

(Gibson) On this day in 1968, Marvin Gaye scored his first U.S. no. 1 single when "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" started a five-week run at the top. It was Gaye's 15th solo hit and also his first U.K. #1 single in March 1969. Gibson takes a look back:

Although there are many who consider "I Heard It through the Grapevine" to be the greatest single Motown ever produced, the song's success didn't come easy. In fact, after first hearing it, label founder Berry Gordy thought the song was unsuitable for release and encouraged the tune's writers to come up with something stronger.

Of course, that version of "Grapevine" wasn't the one that would storm radio in 1967 (as sung by Gladys Knight and the Pips) or the version that would conquer the charts in 1968 (as performed by Marvin Gaye). No, the first edition of the song was one recorded by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles in 1966. The song had come out of collaboration between Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield. Strong, who was the performer responsible for Motown's breakout classic "Money (That's What I Want)," was hired by Gordy as a writer after failing to have a follow-up smash. Gordy paired him with Whitfield, after his success with The Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud to Beg."

"Grapevine" began with Strong, who drew on his own relationship anxiety for its content. As Whitfield began to help on the tune, he suggested that it might be suitable for Smokey to sing. Although The Miracles recorded "Grapevine" in August 1966, Gordy vetoed its release and called it "horrible." But Strong and Whitfield refused to give up on the song, instead choosing to record it with another of Motown's stars (and Whitfield's former collaborator), Marvin Gaye. Although sessions for the song began on April 10, 1967, the recording took more than a month to produce an unusual occurrence at Hitsville, USA. Whitfield oversaw many overdubbing sessions with Gaye and backing vocalists, The Andantes, as well as multiple tracks laid down by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Motown's resident band, The Funk Brothers. more on this story

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