Soul fans know that when Marvin Gaye took permanent ownership of the indelible soul classic “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” it became a No.1 smash for him only a year after Gladys Knight and the Pips had done the same on the soul chart with their version. So it was poetic that, in the time in between the two versions making the bestsellers, Marvin should have another hit that featured Gladys and the group on backing vocals.
The song in question was the hard-edged “You,” produced by Ivy Joe Hunter and written by him with pianist Jack Goga and composer-producer Jeffrey Bowen. Gaye’s previous solo single, “Your Precious Love,” had been riding the charts in the autumn of 1967, rising to No.2 R&B and No.5 pop. He ended the year with a double-sided gem with Tammi Terrell, featuring “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You” and “If This World Were Mine,” of which the top side was another soul No.2, and pop No.10.
The “You” single, recorded in several sessions during 1967, featured the unmistakable and appealing vocals of Knight and the Pips and the equally distinctive instrumentation of the Funk Brothers. Its original B-side was the stirring “At Last (I Found A Love),” which was replaced during the single’s run by the seductive, string and brass-filled “Change What You Can.” Both were produced by Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol.
“You” entered the Billboard Hot 100 on January 13, 1968 but didn’t make its first appearance on Best Selling R&B Singles until February 3, at No.25. It was the week that “If I Could Build…” climbed 3-2, held off the summit by Aretha Franklin’s undeniable “Chain Of Fools.” Perhaps it was the unfamiliar rawness of “You” that prevented it from going higher than No.34 in the pop market, but it climbed to No.7 on the soul side in a nine-week run.
The track, and both B-sides, would go on to open the summer 1968 LP that also contained “Grapevine,” originally titled In The Groove but renamed I Heard It Through The Grapevine! when that song became such a signature for the peerless vocalist.
“You” is on I Heard It Through The Grapevine!, which can be bought here.