December 10, 2010

The Grapevine

My apologies for the absence of the Song of the Day yesterday. Finals are arriving so I’ve been busy with that. But not too busy to make up for yesterday with a massively huge and amazing SOTD. Well, kind of, it’s still one song, in a way. Today I’ll be showcasing three versions of the song “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” The song, originally written by Motown songwriters Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong was first recorded by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. As was common on the Motown label, the song was passed around between artists who would create their own take on the song. Gladys Knight and most famously Marvin Gaye also released versions. However, there have been many, many covers since and below are three of my favorites:

In 1970, Creedence Clearwater Revival released the album Cosmo’s Factory which included an eleven minute version of “Grapevine” among other huge hits like “Travelin’ Band” and “Lookin’ Out My Back Door.” This version of “Grapevine” is without a doubt my favorite. Anytime John Fogerty gets up to sing, a unique song is bound to be born. With their mix of San Francisco psychedelic rock, mowtown soul and southern rock, every CCR song was stricken with stardom because of how accessible it would be. No other musician has been able to blend so many influences into not only something completely new, but also something really fantastic.

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" from Cosmo's Factory by Creedence Clearwater Revival

The Slits, an all-girl English punk band originally released their version of “Grapevine” in 1979 but it didn’t officially reach the States until their album Cut came out on CD in 2005. Lead Singer Ari Up, who died in October from cancer, holds the track together with her sporadic and energetic singing yelping and some weird but magnetic type of yodeling. All of this over a great groove that closes out the song with a dub influenced third verse breakdown makes for another new take on an old song.

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" from Cut by The Slits

Lastly we come to the late and fucking-great Roger Troutman. Troutman I would say, is the single most influential man in current hip hop music. He popularized the talk-box vocoder, or what computers these days call “auto-tune.” Just ask T-Pain or Kanye or Chromeo. They’ll all tell you that Roger and his band Zapp carve a direct line from ‘80s pop music to current R&B and rap. Not only is his style heavily influential today, but with the emergence of G-Funk on the West Coast in the ‘90s, a whole smattering of Roger’s songs were heavily sampled and this led to Roger singing the hook on “California Love” by 2Pac and Dr. Dre. The 1981 album, The Many Facets of Roger was a huge hit and went platinum behind the number one single “Grapevine.”

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" from The Many Facets of Roger by Roger Troutman

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