Song of the Day: The Undisputed Truth, “Smiling Faces Sometimes” #rmf

Motown producer Norman Whitfield was being criticized for using The Temptations for his experiments in psychedelic soul, so he took Billie Rae Calvin and Brenda Evans, who had worked together in the California-based The Delicates, and Joe Harris, who had been with a group called The Fabulous Peps, and formed The Undisputed Truth in the early ’70’s. 1971’s "Smiling Faces Sometimes" was their one Top 10 hit, reaching #3 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B chart.

Look for my Song Lyric Sunday post later today!

Song of the Day: Edwin Starr, “War” #rmf

"War" was originally recorded by The Temptations for their album Psychedelic Shack. Clearly an anti-war anthem, many people wanted Motown to release it as a single, but the label didn’t want to antagonize The Temptations’ more conservative fans, so they turned to one of their "second tier" artists, Edwin Starr, to record it. His cover was released in June of 1970 and by August had reached the #1 spot on the Hot 100, spending three weeks there. It also went to #1 in Canada and #3 in the UK. Billboard ranked it #5 on the year-end Hot 100, and Starr received a Grammy nomination for his performance.

Song of the Day: Jackie Wilson, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher” #rmf

"(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" was written by Gary Jackson, Raynard Miner, and Carl Smith and recorded by "Mr. Excitement," Jackie Wilson, in 1967. Wilson originally had done the song as a soul ballad, but Carl Davis, the producer, told him that was totally wrong and to jump and go with the drums. Taking the advice, Wilson completed the song in one take. The song reached #6 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart, as well as #2 in Canada.

Song of the Day: Martha & The Vandellas, “Dancing In The Street” #rmf

I got my first radio when I was in second grade, and by the end of the school year I was listening to it all the time. Over the summer of 1964, I first heard "Dancing In The Street," and even though I was heavy into The Beatles at that point, I remember really liking it.

It was written by Marvin Gaye and William "Mickey" Stevenson, and offered it to Martha & the Vandellas. Martha Reeves thought it was too repetitive, and Marvin and Mickey agreed, so they brought in Ivy Jo Hunter, a new songwriter at Motown, who added some more lyrics, making sure to include Detroit, "the Motor City," in the list of cities. The song peaked at #2 on the Hot 100, prevented from reaching #1 by Manfred Mann’s "Do Wah Diddy Diddy," and #4 in the UK. Martha Reeves said that it’s the kind of song that makes you want to dance…

Song of the Day: Gladys Knight & The Pips, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”

Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" in 1966. Whitfield produced the single for Gladys Knight & The Pips in 1967, looking for a funky sound like Aretha Franklin’s in "Respect." Originally written for a male singer, Gladys and Whitfield had to adjust some of the lyrics, and they came up with a version that Berry Gordy reluctantly released. It was released on Motown’s Soul label and little effort was put into promoting the record, so the Pips relied on their connections with disk jockeys across the country to gain airplay for the record. Needless to say, the song was a huge hit, reaching #1 on the R&B chart and #2 on the Hot 100 in 1967. Marvin Gaye’s iconic 1968 release of the song did much better, but both versions are in the Grammy Hall of Fame.