Original v. Cover — #37 in a Series

fire hydrant Pictures, Images and Photos

If someone could please post an opening comment for ponies when this publishes, I’d be most appreciative. Please check back later this evening. My opening comment promises to include more images, and music, none of which are covers of this week’s selection, but should be of interest. Thank you.

Except for a few fortunate areas of the country, this has been an extremely long, hot summer.  One must wonder, where are the global warming deniers?  Maybe they are now safely huddled in a secret undisclosed location, bunking with the “Drill Baby, Drill” crowd? Perhaps in a dark, damp cave, ala Usama bin Laden, sharing quarters with the bats who also favor such locations?

In keeping with this theme, the original title of the song made reference to the Hades-like conditions that oftentimes occur in July and August, although those residing in the Old Confederacy can happily add the months of June and September, and to some extent, May and October as well.  The more commonly used title actually attempts to analogize love and oppressively hot weather.  Although this writer represent a rare exception, love that resembles hot, suffocating conditions would seem less than ideal. Perhaps it’s no accident that Valentine’s Day falls during the winter months.

This song was written in the pre-global warming days of 1963 by the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team, and made popular by one of the premier Motown groups of the day, backing instrumentation provided by the incomparable Funk Brothers. Appropriately, the song was released in July, 1963, when Camelot still existed in the White House, peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Hot R&B charts. The original version featured a gospel backbeat, jazz overtones, and, doo-wop call and responsive vocals, pioneering what was later referred to as the Motown sound. This performance also garnered a Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Vocals Performance by a Duo or Group in 1964, making this the first Motown group to receive such a distinction.

On the 2007 DVD entitled, “The Lovin’ Spoonful with John Sebastian – Do You Believe in Magic,” John Sebastian explained that he accelerated the three-chord intro to this song, using it as his intro to their 1965 hit, “Do You Believe in Magic.”  

This great song has been covered numerous musical groups, many appearing later in this essay. Additionally, the song was also covered by Whoopi Goldberg in the film “Sister Act”, and was also included in “Backdraft” and “More American Graffiti.”  In addition, it has been covered four times on American Idol.  

All preliminaries now aside, this week’s selection was the #4 hit from 1963 by the Motown group Martha & the Vandellas, then titled, “Heat Wave.”  Although many subsequent groups used the title, “(Love is Like a) Heat Wave”, Linda Ronstadt shortened it to the original “Heat Wave” in 1975, when she made it into a #5 hit.  

Martha and the Vandellas’ “(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave” and “Dancing in the Streets” were both included in the list of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. They were also inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, only the second all-female group to win such an accolade and were the fifth Motown group to be so honored. They were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003 and in 2004, Rolling Stone magtazine ranked the group #96 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Martha Reeves’ life story is quite fascinating, and unlike the ill-fated demise of other talented artists of the day, Martha survived her frightening brush with disaster. Despite the group’s success, Reeves became dismayed by Berry Gordy’s decision to promote Diana Ross & the Supremes, particularly Diana.  Years later, it was learned that Gordy had fathered a child by Diana Ross. Infighting in the group, particularly with Betty Kelly and the pressures of recording/touring led to her abuse of prescription drugs and alcohol.

In 1969, Reeves suffered a nervous breakdown from an acid trip and had to be institutionalized. Although her group disbanded at the time, she recovered to the point that she was able to resume her music career in 1972.  More recently, in 2005, she ran for and won her bid for a seat on the Detroit City Council. You can learn more about her remarkable life here.    

Martha & the Vandellas earned the first Grammy nomination ever for a Motown group with their #5 hit from September, 1963…

Lou Christie was best known for the following hits: “Two Faces Have I” – #6 in 1963, “Lightnin’ Strikes” – #1 in 1966 and “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” – #10 in 1969.  Here is his cover arrangement from his 1966 album Lightnin’ Strikes

The Who performed their cover versions of “Heat Wave” in early concerts and also on their second album, “A Quick One.”  This performance is from December 3, 1966…

The Supremes, labelmates to Martha & the Vandellas, performed their version on their 1967 album, “The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland”…

Pacific Gas & Electric had one hit, “Are You Ready”, which peaked at #14 on the Billboard Top 40 charts in 1970. Here is their performance of “Heat Wave” from 1972…

Linda Ronstadt released her version of “Heat Wave” in 1975, which appeared on her platinum album, Prisoner in Disguise. The single peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and was frequently included in her live concerts. This song also appeared on several additional charts, i.e., U. S. Billboard Easy Listening – #19, Canadian RPM Top Singles – #12 and Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary – #12.  

The Jam, from their 1979 album, “Setting Suns” – November, 1979  

Kids, Inc. featuring female vocalist Maritka – 1984

Joan Osborne performed with the Funk Brothers (the backing band for the Motown greats) in December, 2002.  This performance is also included on the 2002 documentary film honoring the Funk Brothers, entitled, “Standing in the Shadows of Motown.”  Unfortunately, none of the videos of this performance can be embedded. You can still view it by going here. This option  begins with about 12 seconds of someone speaking in a foreign language, then  a brief introduction to the Funk Brothers before the music starts.  This one is definitely worth a look.

Good news!  Here is a version of Joan Osborne performing with the Funk Brothers live at the Montreal Jazz Festival 2004…

The Long Tall Texans in 2003 perform a definitely uptempo version that remains in a minor key even during the chorus, which transforms the mood of the song.

The Milkees from December 20, 2006…

Lil Rounds demonstrates her vocal talents on this cover version from American Idol – posted in 2009…

Vicki Andreis and Bobby G. perform on two acoustic guitars, with one female vocalist.  They produce a lighter take on this song.  Posted on  August 27, 2009….

The Kathleen Strong Band performing Martha and the Vandellas “(Love is like a) Heatwave” at the Boulder Outlook on September 24th, 2009…

The Floe is a very interesting new group from the U.K. If you listen to nothing else, please check this one out! The song is performed as a slow, meditative ballad, with beautiful instrumentation.  Take my word for it – this is one of the most stunning cover versions I’ve run across yet, for any song.

Their debut album, “No Looking Back”, was released in the U.K. on February 1, 2010. Posted on November 9, 2009…

Here is a soulful, unique version, by an unknown group that, although not as dramatic as the preceding one by The Floe, takes this song in a slower, thoughtful meditative direction. Posted on youtube on April 22, 2010…

The Papa Zitas – Posted on June 22, 2010…

Phil Collins performed his version of this song on his upcoming album, “Going Back”, scheduled for release in September, 2010…

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13 comments

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  1. … for the picture alone … splash!

  2. …. ironic that the Pacific Northwest is cooler on average for its own stats this year, compared to the rest of the country, which is experiencing those northern CA central valley/ lower foothills temps for the summer.

    Where the delta breeze doesn’t come in from the west off the ocean, thru the Altamont pass and Sacramento River Delta feeding into San Francisco Bay, the northern valley temps up around Redding and Red Bluff can hit 110ºF +  routinely in the mid summer and even into September.  

    Sacramento’s being farther south lets it be cooler, and usually that delta breeze cools it off further at night.  Here in the foothills north of Sac, the breeze is picking up a little now at 7:25 pm.

    It’s not been a good year for tomatoes. Too cool.

    Oregon and Washington state are typically much cooler in the summer than northern CA.

    Yeah, but it’s a dry heat. Heh.

    There has been terrible, terrible weather and flooding in Pakistan, destroying over a half million homes.  This is global climate change.  Erratic weather.

  3. Here are some photo images that were considered to headline this article…

    Flippin Hot Pictures, Images and Photos

    Hot Weather Pictures, Images and Photos

    And finally, a photo from one of the red state beaches on the Gulf of Mexico…

    hot weather Pictures, Images and Photos

    Martha & the Vandellas and the Supremes were the two top female Motown groups during the 1960s. Apparently, Berry Gordy began devoting much of his attention to the Supremes, particularly Diana Ross, to the detriment of the remaining Motown groups. Many years later, it became known that he has fathered a child by Diana Ross. Hmmm…

    Oh, and here’s a clarification. Martha Reeves began recording again in 1972, but didn’t quit using prescription drugs and alcohol in earnest until 1977, when she also became “born again.”

    Here are some of Martha & the Vandellas’ greatest hits…

    “Dancing in the Street” (1964) reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, #9 on the Billboard R&B charts, and #4 on the U.K. charts and was added to the National Recording Registry for its historical, artistic and cultural significance in 2006.  “Dancing in the Streets” was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, has been considered by many to be the “Motown Anthem” and has been covered more than 100 times by the Grateful Dead. Here is some great video footage of a live performance by Martha & the Vandellas…  

    “Nowhere to Run” (1965) climbed to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #5 on the Billboard R&B charts, and for obvious reasons, has been popular at key times during sporting events. This includes some great video footage from the television series “Shindig”…

    “Quicksand” (1963) summited at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #7 on the Cashbox R&B charts. There was no Billboard R&B Singles Chart from November, 1963 to January, 1965. This video includes from great vintage photos…

    “I’m Ready for Love (1966) peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, #2 on the Billboard R&B charts and #29 on the U.K. charts…

    “Jimmy Mack” (1967) rose to #10 on the Billboard Hot 100, #1 on the Billboard R&B charts and #21 on the U.K. charts.  According to the youtube poster, “This was originally recorded in 1964 but rejected by Motown’s quality control, “Jimmy Mack'” was finally released in 1967 and became a worldwide hit and is now considered one of Motown’s golden classics. This is the mono release version.” Great song!

    And now to a couple of lesser known groups covering this song…

    Does the name Lou Christie sound vaguely familiar?  Christie’s first Top Ten hit was “Two Faces Have I”, making its first appearance on the Top 40 in April, 1963, rising to #6, followed by his only #1 hit, “Lightnin’ Strikes”, which broke into the Top 40 in January, 1966…

    And does the Pacific Gas & Electric sound familiar (i.e., the musical group, that is)?  Their only Top 40 hit was “Are You Ready?” which first appeared on the Top 40 charts in June, 1970, peaking at #14.  This live performance took place that same year…

    …and is not to be confused with this version of “Are You Ready?” by the Grand Funk Railroad, from their debut album in 1969, “On Time”, which achieved Gold Record status…

  4. It wasn`t real swift of me to come & listen to the covers & not make a comment

    I listened to the Supremes first, but then backed up to Martha & the Vandelas.

    Damn, those were some nice looking ladies.

    I would pick them as my favorite.

    I did listen to Linda Ronstadt`s cover.

    Although I never really listened to her before, I think she did well except for those horrendous pants.

    Thankfully she does not sing through her pants.

    She does have a controlled powerful voice.

    As for the rendition by joan Osbourne, in Quebec, I thought she was lacking in enthusiasm especially with a great bunch of musicians & back-up vocalists behind her.

    But another great essay.

    I haven`t yet listened to them all, so you may see me here again later.

  5. There`s no rec button.

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