For Once In My Life

Album: For Once In My Life (1968)
Charted: 3 2
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  • This was written by the Motown songwriters Ron Miller and Orlando Murden, and was originally recorded in 1966 by a Jazz/Soul singer named Jean DuShon, who was signed to Chess records. Miller had DuShon record the song as a demo, but liked her version so much that he thought she should sing it. Record company politics ensued as Berry Gordy, the head of Motown, was not pleased with one of his songwriters' compositions going to other labels. He made sure to have his artists record the song, and the first to do so was Barbara McNair, who performed it later in 1966 on a TV special and released it on her album Here I Am that year. The next Motown act to record it was The Temptations, who released it in 1967 on their album In a Mellow Mood.

    All versions of the song to this point were long, drawn-out ballads. Stevie Wonder was the first to pick up the tempo and use a joyful arrangement. Wonder's version, however, sat in the Motown vaults for nearly a year before Gordy finally released it in 1968. This became the hit record and definitive version of the song.
  • The song is about finding that special someone who gives you a feeling of boundless happiness. Wonder was just 17 when he first recorded it.
  • Ron Miller wrote a few more Motown favorites, including "Heaven Help Us All," "Yester-Me, Yester-You," "Yesterday" and "A Place In The Sun" for Stevie Wonder, and "Touch Me In The Morning" for Diana Ross. He also reworked "I've Never Been To Me" into a hit for Charlene.
  • The Temptations version featured lead vocals by Paul Williams. It became the showcase song for Williams at their live shows.
  • Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett both recorded this song, with Bennett's version hitting the Hot 100 at #91 - one year before Stevie Wonder charted with it. Bennett often sang it in concert, and in 2006 he performed a slow version with Stevie Wonder for his album Duets: An American Classic. This version won a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. At the awards ceremony, Wonder dedicated the Grammy to his mother, who died in 2006. Bennett then thanked his sponsor - Target department stores.
  • British singer-songwriter Emeli Sande recorded this for the Hulu miniseries Four Weddings and a Funeral. Other versions have also been used in these TV shows:

    Happy Endings ("Brothas and Sisters" - 2013)
    Glee ("Wonder-ful" - 2013) by Kevin McHale
    Fringe ("Brown Betty" - 2010; "6B" - 2011)
    The West Wing ("Welcome To Wherever You Are" - 2006)
    The King Of Queens ("Sold-Y Locks" - 2006)
    Boston Legal ("Breast In Show" - 2006)
    Entourage ("Exodus" - 2005)
    The Nanny ("The Wedding" - 2008)
    Good Times ("That's Entertainment, Evans Style" - 1978)

    And in these movies:

    Operator (2016)
    Shrek Forever After (2010)
    Valentine's Day (2010)
    Monster-in-Law (2005)
    Down With Love (2003)
    Meet The Parents (2000)
    The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996)

Comments: 13

  • Distant Relative from Portland Oregon Max from Chicago is correct about the song being about the birth of a child, I think his first daughter. I don't remember the details, but that was at least the story that was told among family. I'm very distantly related to Ron through marriage.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 27, 1968, two versions of "For Once In My Life" entered Billboard's Top 100 chart at one position apart, at #79 was Stevie Wonder's version and at #80 was Jackie Wilson...
    The following week Mr. Wilson's version peaked at #70 {for 1 week} and it spent three weeks on the Top 100...
    And on December 22nd,1968 Stevie Wonder's version peaked at #2 {for 2 weeks}; the two weeks it was at #2, the #1 record for those two weeks was "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by fellow Tamla Record label-mate, Marvin Gaye...
    Exactly one year earlier on October 27th, 1967 Tony Bennett's version of the song was at #92, the following week it remained at #92, and then for it's final three weeks on the Top 100 it was at it's peak position, #91.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 9th 1969, Greg Morris performed "For Once In My Life" on the CBS-TV program "The Ed Sullivan Show"...
    Between 1966 and 1973 Greg Morris portrayed Barney Collier on the CBS-TV drama series 'Mission: Impossible'...
    He received three Emmy nominations for 'Outstanding Performance Actor in a Supporting Role'...
    Francis Gregory Alan Morris passed away on August 27th, 1996 at the age of 62...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 22nd 1967, "For Once In My Life" by Tony Bennett entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #92; and that was also the record's peak position on the chart, it stayed at #92 for another week and remained on the Top 100 for a total of 5 weeks...
    The following year in 1968 the great Jackie Wilson covered the song; his version peaked at #78...
    R.I.P. Mr. Wilson {1934 - 1984} and Mr. Bennett, born Anthony Dominick Benedetto, celebrated his 88th birthday two months ago on August 3th {2014}.
  • Coy from Palestine, TxTony Bennett actually had a MOR hit with this song BEFORE Stevie Wonder's version hit the top of the charts!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 22nd 1968, "For Once In My Life" by Stevie Wonder peaked at #2 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on October 27th and spent 14 weeks on the Top 100...
    It also reached #2 on the R&B Singles chart...
    And fellow Motown artist, Marvin Gaye, with "Heard It Through The Grapevine" was at #1 on both the Top 100 & R&B chart during the weeks Stevie was at #2...
    R.I.P. Mr. Gaye (1939 - 1984) and Mr. Wonder, born Stevland Hardaway Judkins, will celebrate his 64th birthday come next May 13th.
  • Steve from Whittier, CaI'm listening to it right now on my Windows MediaPlayer. Great Song!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Max from Chicago, IlI don't have anything to back me up other than a feeling, but my suspicion is that the lyrics were inspired by the birth of child, not so much by the discovery of a romantic love.
  • John from Nashville, TnStevie Wonder's recording of this classic is one of the 2009 inductees in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdThis is one of the two Stevie Wonder- Motown songs that Michael McDonald did with Stevie Wonder on harmonica on his third and final album with Simon Climie. Michael Buble also recorded this.
  • Oliver from New York Cirty, OrGo here to hear Jean DuShon's original version of "For Once In My Lfe":

    Visit her Yahoo Group:
  • Oliver from New York Cirty, OrTo clarify something. Jean DuShon's was the first released version of the song. It is possible that Barbara McNair recorded the song first (hers was very slow and heavy-laden with syrpy strings), but was not released until months after DuShon's was out. It seems that Miller thought more could be done with the song and sought Jean's help. After working on the interpretation for an entire day (with DuShon's input) Miller was so pleased he gave her permission to record it. Other singers may have sung the song first, but DuShon, after changes had been made, had the first release.
  • Oliver from New York Cirty, OrThis I got directly from Jean DuShon and other information I've gathered on the Net.

    Barbara McNair signed with Motown in 1965 and recorded a few tunes (but not "For Once in My Life"). Jean DuShon was appearingin a club in Detroit and old friend, Ron Miller, came to see her. He told her about a song he was having problems with and needed her help. She visited him and his wife at their home, spent an entire day working on the song resulting in Miller being very pleased. He asked her to record it. DuShon went into the studio, recorded the song and Chess Records brought out the single in March, 1966. In November, 1966, Barbara's album, HERE I AM was released and "For Once" was included on the lp. Barbara released the single of the song in 1967 and it was a b-side to another 45 of hers in 1969.
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