Before Gladys Knight & the Pips got involved with Motown, they had a number one hit in 1961 with “Every Beat of My Heart”, an arresting ballad, on another black-owned label called Vee-Jay Records, based in Chicago.
The classic Motown song that took them to the top of the Billboard Hot Rhythm and Blues Singles chart was “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, which peaked at number one week-ending 2nd December 1967 (6 weeks).
The song’s arrangement was very different from the Marvin Gaye version, which was both R&B and Pop number one a year later. The recording was more brash and gospel-rooted, with glorious percussion runs and Earl Van Dyke playing acoustic piano, whereas on Marvin’s hit he played Wurlitzer electric piano. Uriel Jones accompanied Benny Benjamin on drums for pickup and to keep the drum beat on time, because by then Benjamin was falling victim to his heroin addiction and did not have the strength and stamina to keep the beat going.
The song did extremely well on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart by achieving the number two position week-ending 16th December 1967(3 weeks).
Photo: Gladys Knight & The Pips on Soul Train 1974