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0 Marvin Gaye, Grapevine, & Friends

  • Songs
  • by Kingsley H. Smith
  • 06/22/2006

In my article Motown Philly back again - a Soulful Tale of Two Cities, I talk about "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," a song that's had a life of it's own.

Grapevine would become Marvin Gaye's biggest pop hit, a number one song on both the R&B and pop charts for seven weeks in 1968.

This song entered the hot 100 at number 34 on November 23, and hit number one just three weeks later.

Gladys Knight's version peaked at number two in December 1967. Motown took a chance by releasing Marvin's version less than a year later.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were the first Motown group to record "I Heard it Through the Grapevine.

The Isley Brothers put their special touch on the song after Smokey. These two classic soul versions of Grapevine are extremely rare.

More "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" tidbits:

  • The song has been on the Billboard Hot 100 list six different times
  • King Curtis' instrumental version peaked at number 83 (1968)
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival's interpretation went to number 43 (1976)
  • Roger (Zapp) Troutman's version hit number 79 (1981)
  • Buddy Miles' version (The California Raisins) topped out at 84 (1988)

The Temptations, Undisputed Truth, Ike and Tina Turner, Elton John, and many others have sung songwriter Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong's salute to underground communication.

We all know the lyrics, but what was Marvin Gaye really feeling when he belted out the tune?

Here's a tongue-n-cheek interpretation of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," by satirist John Moe, who tells us what Marvin was really thinking...

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"Marvin Gaye explains what he heard through the grapevine"

"Baby,"

"By now you've returned home to discover all my clothing, housewares, and other worldly possessions gone forever. And also me. But you've found this note and are reading it.

You are probably surprised to find me not here (or "there" in my case, because at the moment I am not where you and the note both are). You are surprised, I bet, because you didn't think I knew about your plans to break up with me.

How, you're thinking, did Marvin learn of my plans to make him blue?

I'll tell you how: I talked to the grapes.

This surprises you, I know, that I have such a power. And believe me, it surprised me when I first discovered it.

It all started about six months ago when I bought a sack of grapes from an old man on La Cienega. I think he might have been an Indian shaman or a Spanish guy or what have you.

But he said that these were magical grapes and worth a hundred dollars and I figured why would someone lie about something like that to me when I'm Marvin Gaye?

So I paid him, took the grapes home, put them on the table (in that Navajo bowl from your mother) (still there) and stayed up for 36 hours waiting.

And just when I was about to give up, the grapes started talking. Telling me about where they grew, how they were picked and sold and then resold a few times.

It wasn't very interesting, really, because they were only two weeks old so what did they know? But still, hell, talking grapes.

In the brief time I spent with them, they taught me the language of grapes, how to listen and how to talk it. A few days later I heard their tiny gasping yelps as they died of natural causes and began to rot.

It was remarkable. I buried them in the front yard. You weren't there, baby. You were probably, even then, spending time with the guy you knew before.

After that, every stroll through a supermarket produce section was like a damn Christmas party, thousands of little conversations everywhere.

Stupid stuff, gossip mostly and primitive grape songs, but still remarkable.

I would buy a few bunches and take them home, trying to entertain them as best I could with some songs and jokes until, within a few days, they all died.

Before long, I had become a legendary figure in grape folklore, a demigod who could provide enlightenment in the too-brief life of a grape.

Well, when you're a demigod like me you grow kind of distant from mere mortals like you.

That's why I never told you about this ability and instead grabbed the fruit bowl and ran to the basement whenever you came home. Still, I thought we had a stable relationship that could withstand a few ups and downs.

The grapes, on the other hand, had their doubts, constantly telling me they thought you were up to something. "No! We love each other and everything's OK!" I shouted. "Quit trying to drive us apart, grapes!"

Finally, I gave them a chance to prove their assertions. I left for a day and instructed one of the grapevines (a particularly observant bunch) to report back to me.

It took me by surprise, I must say, when I found out yesterday what was really happening. You plotting to let me go and take up with that other guy you knew before, never realizing that the fruit bowl was filled with dozens of spies.

You even ate Diane R. Weinstein, Jamal Jackson, Evelyn Matthews, and Dave Griffin (all grapes).

You could have told me yourself that you found someone else. But instead I had to hear it from my friends. Now I know you're supposed to believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.

But why would the grapes lie to me? What would be in it for them? Turns out they're the only friends I got.

So this is goodbye. I hope you and the guy you knew before (sorry, I can never remember his name) are happy together. I will dedicate my life to the grapes now and to promoting better understanding between our two species.

I'm just about to lose my mind."

Marvin

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In the archive of Misheard Lyrics at amiright.com, most people seem to miss the words to versions by Creedence Clearwater Revival, and this Marvin Gaye misinterpretation...

Misheard Lyrics:
"People say be planned for what you hear
Some and nun of what you hear."

Original Lyrics: "People say believe half of what you see
Son, and none of what you hear."

And that's the final word for now on "I Heard it Through the Grapevine."

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