I Heard It Through the Grapevine

Album: I Heard It Through the Grapevine (1968)
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  • It seems like everyone in Motown heard about this song "through the grapevine" before it was finally recorded. The classic about a man who finds out his woman is cheating on him was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. Strong came up with the idea and asked Motown writers Holland-Dozier-Holland to work on it with him. They refused to credit another writer, so Strong took it to Whitfield, who helped put it together. The song eventually became a Motown classic, but it had a rough start, as executives at the company thought it was too bluesy and lacked hit potential.

    Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were the first to record the song, but their version wasn't released until years later on an album called Special Occasion. The Isley Brothers then took a crack at it, but their version wasn't released. Whitfield and Strong then had Marvin Gaye record the song but still no luck: Motown head Berry Gordy chose Holland-Dozier-Holland's "Your Unchanging Love" over "Grapevine" as his next single. Finally, a new Motown act Gladys Knight and the Pips recorded the song as a gospel rocker. Their version was a hit, entering the Top 40 in November 1967 and going to #2 in America.

    Marvin Gaye's version was included on his 1968 album In The Groove (later re-titled I Heard It Through The Grapevine). After E. Rodney Jones, the Chicago disc jockey at WVON, started playing it on the air, Berry Gordy reconsidered and released Gaye's version as a single, which became even more popular and known as the definitive version of the song. Gaye's "Grapevine" pounded the charts about a year after Knight's, going to #1 in America on December 14, 1968.
  • With this heartbreaking tune about a man who finds out secondhand that his girl is cheating on him, Marvin Gaye wrung out the emotion in the song thanks to Norman Whitfield, who produced the track and gave him very specific instructions. Whitfield had Gaye sing slightly higher than his normal range, which created the strained vocal, and he made him do it over and over until he got it right. Gaye explained to NME: "I simply took direction, as I felt the direction he was expounding was a proper one. Had I done it myself I would not have sung it at all like that, but y'see there are many benefits in just singing other people's material and taking directions. The job of interpreting is quite an important one, because when people are not able to express what is in their souls if there is an artist who can... then I think that is very valuable."
  • Barrett Strong got the idea for the song when he was living in Chicago and heard lots of people using the phrase "I heard it through the grapevine." Said Strong, "Nobody wrote a song about it, so I sat at a piano and came up with the bass line." He took the song to Whitfield, who helped complete it. It was the first collaboration for the writers.
  • Along with "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone," Barrett Strong considers this the best song he wrote with Norman Whitfield. Other hits they wrote together include "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," "Just My Imagination," and "Money (That's What I Want)."
  • Until the Lionel Richie/Diana Ross duet "Endless Love" bested it with a 9-week run in 1981, this was the longest-running Motown #1 Hot 100 hit, topping the chart for seven weeks. It was a sensation in the UK as well, where it was #1 for three weeks.
  • This was Gaye's first #1 hit, and it made him a star. He already had 23 Top 40 hits by the time "Grapevine" was released, and was doing a lot of duets with Tammi Terrell, which were especially popular on the R&B charts. His next #1 came in 1973 with "Let's Get It On," and he had one more with "Got To Give It Up."
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival released an 11-minute version in 1970 for their Cosmo's Factory album; it was one of the few songs CCR recorded that they didn't write. Quite a contrast to many of the band's compact hits, it allowed them to spread out and jam.

    According to their drummer Doug Clifford, he was given free rein to create his drum parts off of John Fogerty's guitar. At times in the song, Fogerty would set up a rhythmic lead that Clifford would follow and at other points in the song, Fogerty follows a rhythm Clifford set up.

    In December 1975, CCR's label Fantasy Records re-released the song as a single, which made it to #43 in the US. This release came in the middle of some heated legal battles between the band and the label, which resulted in John Fogerty taking a 10-year break from making music.
  • In 1987, this got new life when it was used in commercials for California Raisins, with claymation raisins performing the song. In addition to boosting raisin sales, the California Raisins became an '80s fad and were the most popular Halloween costume that year. Buddy Miles – known as the founding member of The Electric Flag and as a member of Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys – was the group's lead singer.
  • This is the only song that was a #1 R&B hit for three different artists. In addition to the Gladys Knight and the Pips and Marvin Gaye versions, Roger Troutman (recording as "Roger") took it to the top of the R&B charts with his 1981 version. Long before the Auto-Tune craze, Troutman used a talk box to create a kind of electro funk and had a hit with "More Bounce To The Ounce," recorded by his band Zapp. Troutman saw that three different artists had already hit with this song and needed something with recognizable lyrics to make it easy to understand through his vocoder-like device.
  • This song was prominently featured in the opening of the 1983 film The Big Chill as a group of friends learn the news about another friend's suicide. The soundtrack also boasts other Motown hits such as Gaye's "What's Going On"; The Temptations' "My Girl" and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg"; The Miracles' "I Second That Emotion" and "The Tracks Of My Tears"; The Four Tops' "It's the Same Old Song"; The Marvelettes' "Too Many Fish in the Sea" and Martha and The Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street" (which was co-written by Gaye).
  • The original version of this song was presented for consideration at one of the famous Friday morning meetings help at the Motown offices where Berry Gordy would decide which songs to release as singles. Gordy usually went by staff vote, but even though "Grapevine" had the votes, he went instead with a song written by Holland-Dozier-Holland called "Your Unchanging Love." "I personally liked 'Grapevine' better," Gordy said in his autobiography. "But I felt the other record was more in the romantic vein of what Marvin needed."
  • This re-entered the UK charts in 1986 after being featured in a popular commercial for Levi's 501 jeans that had British model Nick Kamen undressing in a launderette. The song peaked at #8. That following year, Kamen issued his self-titled debut album and landed a Top 10 UK hit with the Madonna-penned "Each Time You Break My Heart."

Comments: 38

  • Casey from Palm SpringsA rumor has persisted that the lyrics were actually written by Roger Penzabene (The End of Our Road, I Wish it Would Rain, etc) about his relationship, and this was part of his "paying his dues" to write for Motown. The lyrics fit with his other songs but who knows?
  • Dj Romie Borgdata from The Independent Nation Of The Conch Repulic In Key WestWhat if the singer is a stalker or fan watching from a distance as the object of their obsession started dating someone? I love this song for both it's intended meaning of a naïve person freaking out over losing their first love, and for how perfectly, without changing a word, it applies to this darker interpretation.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 25th 1968, Gladys Knight and the Pips performed a three song medley; "The End of Our Road", "And So Is Love", & "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"; on CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
    At the time "The End of Our Road" was at #26 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and one week later on March 3rd it peaked at #15 {for 3 weeks} and spent 10 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #5 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    And two months earlier on December 10th, 1967 "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" peaked at #2* {for 3 weeks} on the Top 100...
    * The first two weeks it was at #2, the #1 record was "Daydream Believer" by the Monkees and for its third week at #2, "Hello Goodbye" by the Beatles was in the top spot.
  • Markantney from BiloxiAug 2014,

    For those of you unfamiliar with 80s R&B, Roger Troutman's rendition is a good 10 minutes long and though it uses the same melodic flow as MGaye's, it sounds nothing like it. Minus when I first knew/heard of the song/remake; I can't recall once hearing his version and thinking of the prior versions.
  • AnonymousNorman Whitfield booked a recording studio for three hours and sat playing the bass part to Heard it Through the Grapevine over and over while we recorded all of it. The riff evolved as he played. He finally had us make a portion of the tape as a 7 1/2 ips copy for home use. It's possible that Barrett Strong wrote the bass line riff, but I heard Whitfield perfect it. Did I say I was working at Motown as a recording engineer?
  • Markantney from Biloxi, MsJul 2014,

    Werd in how many different versions of this (Same) Song, became Hits.

    But they ALL have to "BowDown" to Gaye's Souful-Jazzy(???) Rendition.

    Someone noted earlier, Marvin's Intro (the pulsating Drums, horns,..) alone surpasses the others and his vocals seem more Personal, so much so you'd not only think he wrote the Song but the Woman and the Man she's now with was right in front of him as he sang it:)

    RIP to the Ali of Soul, MGaye.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 8th 1968, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye peaked at #1 (for 7 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on November 23rd and spent 15 weeks on the Top 100...
    The next two records on the Top 10 were also Motown artists; at #2 was "Love Child" by the Supremes and at #3 "For Once In My Life" by Stevie Wonder...
    And a year earlier in 1967 another Motown act, Gladys Knight & the Pips, reached #2 (for 3 weeks) with it on the Top 100.
  • Lana from Norfolk, United KingdomSorry guys you are wrong about most of this. I have been researching about this song for college and in fact it was Smokey Robinson and The Miracles who was the first to record this song and that was on the 25th of September 1967
  • Meocyber from Alma, Co The Original Marvin version is a Top 10 greatest rock song to me. But I think CCR's cover is easily one of the best. best covers of all time. It was genius to put the dark swamp rock touch on it. The guitar middle is a real classic!
  • Megan from Stevenson, AlThis is such a great classic! Lovely song and music. The lyrics are so catchy!
  • Rick from Belfast, MeThis song....and the album it is from(Cosmos Factory), where they recorede it, should at LEAST be in the top 25 songs AND albums of all time.....should at least be higher than Nirvana(they call that music?...lol)....rock on CCR...John and Tom,Doug and Stu
  • Markus from Norrköping, SwedenJust saw the "Standing in the shadows of motown" documentary.. i'm feeling kinda sorry for the guys who recorded this song in a smallbasement studio. All the talk about marvin gaye and the songwriters.. but the people who brought the majority of all motown hits to life have almost never been heard of.. "the funkbrothers" you guys really should see the "SITSOM" documentary.. just a tip (;
  • John from Nashville, Tn"Grapevine" is the only song to hit #1 on the Billboard R&B charts three times: Gladys Knight & The Pips (1967), Marvin Gaye (1968), and electro-funk musician Roger (Troutman)(1981).
  • Kerry G. from Detroit Rock City, MiI dig Marvin a whole lot, and this song is real cool, but i still believe his best song ever was "trouble man". "Pimps, Players & PrivateEyes"
  • Fulu Thompho from Limpopo, South Africasomewhere, somehow during marvin's living years, a certain woman might have cheated on him and hence whoever form wherever wrote this song for him.
  • N.i. from Baltimore, MdThe CCR version would almost be a decent cover, but every time Fogerty sings "I hoid it through the grapevine," it just ruins it for me.
  • Mixermatt from Bloomington, MnCCR version is a Disc Jockeky's best friend, this long version gives us the chance to look through more music and a chance to use the rest room
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdIt could be about a man cheating on a woman or vice versa if you're listening to the Gladys Knight version. Michael McDonald did a fabulous rendition. There was also a parody of this in the preview of Meet the Robinsons (the Disney/ Pixar film featuring singing frogs!)
  • Ched - from La Union, Philippinesi love the CCR version!
  • Anthony from Collinsville, IlThis is a good song , however all of you are on the wrong page,true enough the song was made for Marvin gaye ,but it went to Gladys Knight first.
    The version Marvin did was first done by Ronald Isley first,This took place while the Isleys were still at Motown records.They never acutully released his(Ronald) version,but he did the song first. There is alot of info on the Isleys that alot of people are unaware of.
  • Bob from Seguin, TxI have been looking without success for a particular video synched to Marvin Gaye's version of Grapevine. It was played regularly on MTV maybe 20 or 25 years ago. It was a dance set in a school or college library that built slowly in rhythm to the music and grew to a feverish pitch. Professional and very sexy. Can anyone tell me how to locate this. Bob in Texas
  • Max from New Brunswick, NjI actually thought that CCR wrote this song because i had never heard of them performing covers. Anyway, I love Gaye's vocals but nothing beats an extended jam version by CCR.
  • Marina from Seattle, WaIt's amazing to think that someone with a great ear like Berry Gordy failed to immediately jump on this song. The Gladys Knight and the Pips version of this song is excellent as well.
  • Henry from Kingston, NyOne of the best basslines ever. Gaye's vocals are great, too. CCR's version is cools.
  • Ivan from Dallas, TxIt was CCR's version I heard first. I was a kid in HongKOng and saw CCR's MTV on stage. They also had "Looking Out My Backdoor" and "Sweet Hitch-Hiker" on the air. Later when I came to the US then I heard Gaye's version. I like both. They have different qualities, so it's hard to say which is better. Just like Lennon's and Elton's versions of L-S-D.
  • Jerry from Eatontown, NjI like the Creedence Clearwater version more because of its length. It shows the guitar artistry of Fogerty and the tightness of a very good band.
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoI'm always fascinated to learn of singer-songwriters who wrote hits for others (like Dancing In The Streets in Marvin Gaye's case) but whose biggest hit or hits were written by others. Kinda like Harry Nilsson.
  • Louis Rodriguez from Lancaster, Camy favorite artist(s) who recorded this song are in the following order:gladys knight and the pips,creedence clear water revival and marvin gaye
  • Andy from Mdq, ArgentinaRecently covered by Kaiser Chiefs for the new charity record Help: A Day In The Life. the sequel of the 1995 war child album wich featured oasis, blur and radiohead among many others.
    Great version by the kaisers.
  • Joel from Detroit, Migladys blows my mind!
  • Vickie from Sydney, AustraliaI also like CCR's version the best, especially the long jam session at the end. Go John Fogerty!
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumThank you Stefanie, you're right but I think the exact name is Kim Weston. I like her voice very much.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI think the woman he sang "It Takes Two" with was Kim Westin. I don't know if I spelled it right.
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumI love the version of Marvin Gaye. It has a super introduction, one of the best ever made. Marvin Gaye made a super hit of this. I also like his other songs like "Too busy thinking about my baby"
    "Sexual Healing" "It takes two"(I don't remember the name of the woman he sang with) and his duos with Tammy Terrel.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScThe Gay version is the best. the CCR version is good, but too long and repetitive.
  • Ross from Independence, MoThis is #80 on Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
  • Edward Pearce from Ashford, Kent, EnglandBarrett Strong originally wrote this on a $40 piano with only 10 working keys.
  • Mars from Vancouver, CanadaI like the CCR version bestest.
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