Every Tuesday, the Analog Kid blog goes back in time and features some of the best groovy R&B/soul songs from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Sometimes you’ll hear songs from individual artists or from a specific year, and other times you’ll get an entire full-length classic LP ripped directly from the Analog Kid’s vast vinyl vault. Warning: by R&B/soul, I also mean disco. I could go all Patrick Hernandez on your ass at any given moment, so just be ready!
I loved AM radio when I was a kid. Soul, pop, rock, country…it was all there, and all at the same spot on the dial. You didn’t think twice about hearing “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves” right after “Won’t Get Fooled Again” on your favorite station, and radio was all the better for it. One direct result of this Top 40 melting pot was that a lot of rock and rollers would go on to perform some soul covers that might have surprised a few listeners. The truth is, a lot of Pat Benatar fans probably didn’t even know that “You Better Run” was a cover — and that’s just fine. After all, a great song is a great song…
Groovy Tuesday: 1968
Sam & Dave: “I Thank You” (Isaac Hayes/David Porter)
From the album I Thank You
Stax/Atlantic Records, 1968
Isaac Hayes and David Porter wrote “Soul Man” for Sam & Dave in 1967, and the songwriting team followed up that classic by contributing “Thank You” to Mr. Moore and Mr. Prater in 1968. “Thank You” was the last Top 10 hit for Sam & Dave, but Isaac Hayes was just getting started.
ZZ Top: “I Thank You” (Isaac Hayes/David Porter)
From the album Deguello
Warner Brothers Records, 1979
I first moved to Texas in 1979. I had never heard of ZZ Top before my arrival in Plano, but I learned quickly. ZZ Top’s cover of “I Thank You” was their second Top 40 hit (“Tush” had reached #20 in 1975), although I doubt that anyone in my seventh grade class at Carpenter Middle School knew that it was written by Isaac Hayes. In all honesty, I’d be shocked if there was a single kid in my school who had even heard of Isaac Hayes or “Shaft” in 1979.
Young-Holt Unlimited: “Soulful Strut” (Eugene Record/Sonny Sanders)
From the album Soulful Strut
Brunswick Records, 1968
“Soulful Strut” has quite an unusual history. Young-Holt Unlimited took the song to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, but many question if Young and Holt actually played on their only hit single. “Soulful Strut” is actually just the backing track from Barbara Acklin’s “Am I The Same Girl,” with the vocal removed and some additional piano added. Acklin’s version only reached #79 on the pop charts, so sometimes I guess it really is best to shut up and dance!
Swing Out Sister: “Am I The Same Girl” (Eugene Record/Sonny Sanders)
From the album Get In Touch With Yourself
Fontana Records, 1992
Don’t worry, Barbara– Swing Out Sister have got your back! The British duo’s smooth version of “Am I The Same Girl” reached #1 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart in 1992, and also went Top 10 on the Dance chart.
Marvin Gaye: “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong)
From the album In The Groove
Tamla/Motown Records, 1968
Barry Gordy was a genius, but he really dropped the ball on “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.” The song was first recorded by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles in 1966, but Gordy didn’t think their version was good enough to be a hit. He told songwriters Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong to improve it, and they had Marvin Gaye record a new arrangement in 1967. It’s hard to believe in retrospect, but Gordy didn’t really like Gaye’s take either. He finally approved of a sped-up version recorded by Gladys Knight & The Pips, and I’m sure Barry was quite pleased with his ear when Gladys’ version hit #2 in late 1967.
In 1968, Gaye’s original recording was included on his album In The Groove. Radio immediately jumped all over the track, and Gordy finally had to give in and release Gaye’s version of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” as a single. On December 14, 1978, Marvin’s version replaced Diana Ross & The Supremes’ “Love Child” as the #1 song in the United States. It stayed there for seven straight weeks.
Creedence Clearwater Revival: “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong)
From the album Cosmo’s Factory
Fantasy Records, 1970
Hot on the heels of Knight and Gaye’s successes, Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded an epic 11-minute version of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” for their 1970 album Cosmo’s Factory. CCR’s take wasn’t released as a single, but it did receive a large amount of airplay on FM radio (and not only when a DJ had to visit the facilities). In 1976, an edited version was released as a single (long after the band’s breakup) and reached #43 on the Hot 100.
Otis Redding: “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” (Otis Redding/Steve Cropper)
From the album The Dock Of The Bay
Atlantic Records, 1968
Otis Redding recorded “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of Bay” just a few days before his tragic death in a plane crash in December of 1967. Otis had co-written the song with Steve Cropper of Booker T & The M.G.’s, and Cropper produced the recording session that eventually yielded the first-ever posthumous # 1 single.
Sammy Hagar: “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” (Otis Redding/Steve Cropper)
From the 7″ single (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay
Capitol Records, 1979
Steve Cropper also played guitar on Sammy Hagar’s remake of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay.” Hagar was joined on vocals by Brad Delp and Barry Goudreau of Boston, and the stand-alone single inched its way up to #65 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979.
Archie Bell & The Drells: “Tighten Up” (Archie Bell/Billy Buttier)
From the album Tighten Up
Atlantic Records, 1968
You would think that Archie Bell would have been really, really happy on the day that “Tighten Up” reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. One problem: Bell was serving in Vietnam when Atlantic Records distributed “Tighten Up” nationally, and he had been wounded during the Tet Offensive. Bell was actually recovering in a West German hospital on the day that “Tighten Up” hit #1 back home. He tried to convince the other wounded soldiers that he was the guy singing the song on the radio, but nobody believed him– until they heard the song again…
“Hi everybody, I’m Archie Bell of The Drells from Houston, Texas…”
R.E.M.: “Tighten Up” (Archie Bell/Billy Buttier)
Flexi-disc included with Bucketful Of Brains No. 11, February 1985
R.E.M.’s version of “Tighten Up” was recorded during a studio jam at the end of the Reckoning sessions in 1984. It was given away as a flexi-disc in the February 1985 edition of the magazine Bucketful Of Brains, and was one of the band’s rarest recordings until its inclusion on a deluxe edition of Reckoning in 1993. Clearly, R.E.M. did not completely heed the advice inherent in the song’s title, but it’s still a lot of fun to listen to!
The first rule of The Analog Kid blog is that if you write about a song on the Analog Kid blog, you share the song on the Analog Kid blog.
Cher: “Gypsys, Tramps And Thieves” (Bob Stone)
From the album Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves
MCA Records, 1971
The Who: “Won’t Get Fooled Again [Single Version]” (Pete Townshend)
Original version from the album Who’s Next
Polydor Records, 1971
The Young Rascals: “You Better Run” (Brigati/Cavaliere)
From the album Groovin’
Atlantic Records, 1966
Pat Benatar: “You Better Run” (Brigati/Cavaliere)
From the album Crimes Of Passion
Chrysalis Records, 1980
Sam & Dave: “Soul Man” (Isaac Hayes/David Porter)
From the album Soul Men
Stax/Atlantic Records, 1967
ZZ Top: “Tush” (Billy Gibbons/Dusty Hill/Frank Beard)
From the album Fandango!
London Records, 1975
Isaac Hayes: “Theme From Shaft” (Isaac Hayes)
From the album Shaft
Enterprise Records, 1971
Gladys Knight & The Pips: “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong)
From the album Everybody Needs Love
Soul/Motown Records, 1967
Diana Ross & The Supremes: “Love Child” (Pamela Sawyer/Frank Wilson/R. Dean Taylor/Deke Richards)
From the album Love Child
Motown Records, 1968