The Joke (Is Not On Me)

Album: Lonely Teardrops (1959)

Songfacts®:

  • When Janie Bradford was a teenager, she wrote poetry, unaware that it wasn't the same as writing songs. It was Motown founder Berry Gordy who encouraged her to start penning lyrics for music. She recalled to Mojo magazine:

    "When I saw Berry, he was just an ordinary man, no wings. I told him, 'If you can write a song, I can write a song better than you any day.'"

    Bradford added: "Maybe a month or two later, Berry came by the house to hear some of my songs, which I did not have, of course. I've never written a song in my life but I had notebooks full of poetry. So I got one of them and said, 'Here are my words,' cos I didn't even know the term lyric at that point. He took my words and showed me how to take the poetry out, do it in song form, with hooks and bridges and that stuff."

    Soon afterwards Janie Bradford wrote her first proper song, "The Joke (Is Not On Me)," with Berry Gordy's sister, Gwen; it was included on Jackie Wilson's album Lonely Teardrops.
  • Janie Bradford went on to a successful songwriting career, co-penning many of Motown's classic '60s songs, including (with Berry Gordy) Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)" and Marvin Gaye's "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby."

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