Smiling Faces Sometimes

Album: Best Of The Undisputed Truth (1971)
Charted: 3

Songfacts®:

  • This song is a warning: smiling faces often tell lies. They will tell you what you want to hear, then turn around and screw you over. The song offers advice on how to root out these liars: look into their eyes. It's easy to fake a smile, but the eyes have a harder time disguising the truth.
  • The Motown songwriters Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote this song and recorded it with both The Temptations and The Undisputed Truth. The song first appeared on The Temptations album Sky's The Limit in April 1971. This version runs 12:43, taking up about half of Side 1 of the album. The Undisputed Truth released their version, clocking in at a tidy 3:20, a few months later on their debut album. The Temps wanted to use an edited version as the follow-up to their #1 "Just My Imagination," but Whitfield issued The Undisputed Truth's recording as a single, which climbed to #3 US in September.
  • The line, "can you dig it?," comes up a few times in this song. That was a popular saying at the time, used by The Friends of Distinction on their 1969 cover of Grazing In The Grass.
  • The Undisputed Truth were assembled by Norman Whitfield in 1970 in an effort to bring some new blood to Motown. The male singer in the group was Joe Harris, who had been in various groups in Detroit. The female singers were Brenda Joyce Evans and Billie Rae Calvin, who sang backup for Motown on tracks for The Supremes and The Four Tops. "Smiling Faces" ended up being the group's only substantial hit. The group went through a number of lineup changes, appearing in various guises throughout the '70s and '80s.
  • Musicians on this track were some of the same Motown Funk Brothers Norman Whitfield used on various Temptations tracks. Bob Babbitt was the bass player, and Dennis Coffey handled guitar. Coffey used a Hammond Condor guitar synthesizer on the track.
  • Artists to cover this include Rare Earth (1973), David Ruffin (1974), Joan Osborne (2012) and Angie Stone (2016).

Comments: 15

  • Bradford Mccormick from Westchester County, New YorkMy experience in a 73+ years old life confirms it's true: Smiling faces tell lies! It's a big red warning sign on the superhighway of my life! Danger: Trouble ahead! Amen!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1971 {August 15th} "Smiling Faces Sometimes" by the Undisputed Truth peaked at #2 {for 3 weeks} on Billboard's Hot Soul Singles* chart, for the first week it was at #2, the #1 record for that week was "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" by Marvin Gaye, and for it's 2nd and 3rd week at #2, "Spanish Harlem" by Aretha Franklin occupied the top spot...
    "Smiling Faces Sometimes" reached #3 on Billboard's Top 100 chart...
    Between 1971 and 1979 the Motown group had fifteen records on the Hot Soul Singles chart, one made the Top 10, the above "Smiling Faces Sometimes"...
    The group had one record make the Top 20, "Help Yourself", it peaked at #19 {for 2 weeks} in 1974...
    Two group members have passed away, founding member Billie Calvin died on June 23, 2007, at the age of 58, and Tyrone 'Lil Ty' Barkley passed on February 14, 2017, at 70...
    May both Mr. Calvin and Mr. Barkley R.I.P.
    * And from the 'For What It's Worth', department, the remainder of the Hot Soul Singles' Top 10 on August 15th, 1971:
    At #3. "Maybe Tomorrow" by the Jackson 5
    #4. "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" by the Dramatics
    #5, "Hot Pants, Part One (She Got to Use What She Got to Get What She Wants)" by James Brown
    #6. "Spanish Harlem" by Aretha Franklin
    #7. "Tired of Being Alone" by Al Green
    #8. "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers
    #9. "I Likes To Do It" by the People's Choice
    #10. "Mr. Big Stuff" by Jean Knight
  • Ginny White from Californiait is ironic that the Funk Brothers played on this song they as a whole knew all about those Smiling Faces that would lie to you
  • Greg Williams from MorristownI had always thought the "Can you dig it?" line was ripped from Isaac Hayes' "Theme to Shaft", when in fact "Smiling Faces Sometimes" was carting months before "Shaft" was released.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 28th 1971, Undisputed Truth performed "Smiling Faces Sometimes" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    The very next day the song peaked at #3 {for 2 weeks} on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart...
    {See next post below}...
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn June 20th 1971, "Smiling Faces Sometimes" by the Undisputed Truth entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #80; and on August 29th it peaked at #3 (for 2 weeks) and spent 18 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #2 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart.
  • D. from Dallas, TxIn the ad-lib at the end of the song Eddie LeVert did mentioned,"Smiling faces,smiling faces sometimes..."
    Smiling Faces came out in '71-Back Stabbers was out in '72.....it followed the theme of coniving friends from it's predecessor.
  • Neal from Hooterville, MiThis song has an uncanny resemblance to "Back Stabbers" by the O'jays.
  • John from Nashville, TnThe Temptations' version of this song was supposed to be the followup single to the group's #1 hit "Just My Imagination". However, Eddie Kendricks, the lead singer for this version, left the group right after recording it and Motown decided to scrap those plans.
  • Kristin from Bessemer, AlI think its ironic - The Temptations first recorded this song before the Undisputed Truth did and it never was a hit, THEN the Undisputed Truth recorded "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" before the Temptations did and THEIR version wasnt a hit.
  • Marie from South, LaThis song came to mind today as I read an email from someone who enlightened me to facts of someone whom we thought as a family friend..
    As Richard Soto said, It could not be better said about a smile!
  • Andrew from Birmingham, United StatesJust like "My Ding-A-Ling" by Chuck Berry has a Christmas sound to it, so "Smiling Faces Sometimes" has its own share of holiday-type sound - a Halloween sound. Is it intended to sound dark and mysterious? It doesn't seem to be about mistaking frowns for smiles (emo disguise). It seems to be about mellow faces as soothing disguises for villains, or even evil spirits.
  • JoaquÃ?n from Chaguito City, ChileThere are about 3000 versions of this song, but i think that, by far, the best one is 1973's by rare earth. Brilliant.
  • Clarke from Pittsburgh, PaNo wonder it sounds like a Temptations song - it IS a Temptations song. A similar occurrence was obvious with "I Wanna Get Next To You" from the movie "Car Wash," which the Temps were scheduled to record, but it went to newcomers Rose Royce instead.
  • Ben from San Antonio, Tx"A smile is just a frown turned upside down." It could not be better said. Richard Soto, SATX.
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