Barrett Strong: I Heard It Through The Grapevine
[purchase used for 80 bucks!]
It's unusual to find a live performance from Barrett Strong, who spent most of his career behind the music, cranking out songs for other artists both with and without producer Norman Whitfield - though it's worth noting that Barrett's original 1959 version of Money (That's What I Want), which would go on to make so much money for The Beatles, was the very first hit record for Berry Gordon's Motown Label. Though this technically classifies Strong as a one-hit wonder, there's no denying his influence on the rise of the Motown sound: in addition to the vast majority of songs from the Temptations' "psychedelic soul" era, his writing credits include War, Smiling Faces Sometimes, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, and Papa Was A Rolling Stone, which won Strong a 1973 Grammy for best R&B song.
This rare, out-of-print recording of Barrett performing a pensive, soulful version of his own composition, recorded in the early nineties at NYC's famous Bottom Line, comes from the first volume of In Their Own Words, a two-release set of live singer-songwriter work hosted by popular WFUV host Vin Scelsa. Barrett's intro, provided as a separate track on the same collection, provides no small insight into the life of a Motown staff writer, and the culture of Motown writ large. The voices and strings heard in the song's background include Shawn Colvin, Richard Thompson, and others present on that fateful night.