Quick: Who sang “I Heard it Through the Grapevine?” Chances are, your first answer was Marvin Gaye (Great American Things, April 2, 2009) . He had the biggest hit with it, but his 1968 release wasn’t the first version to make it to the charts. It was Gladys Knight and the Pips whose 1967 recording made it to number one on the R&B chart, and number 2 on the pop chart – Motown’s biggest hit to that point.
But even this wasn’t the first recording of the song. That was done by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. But Berry Gordy didn’t care for it, and didn’t allow its release. Marvin Gaye’s version was recorded next, but held while Gladys Knight’s recording soared. Then Gaye’s came out, and reached number one on the pop and R&B charts.
“I Heard it Through the Grapevine” was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, two of Motown’s many creative giants. Rolling Stone named their song number 80 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. And Billboard, in its 50th anniversary of the Top 100 chart, ranked this its number 65 hit.