“Smiling Faces Sometimes” (1971) Part 1 of 2


Composers: Norman Whitfield & Barrett Strong

This song made the Undisputed Truth a household name when it went to #3 in 1971. But the group really didn’t have any bigger hits and disbanded in 1981.

Norman Whitfield, who co-wrote the song with Barrett Strong, used the “Truth” as a vehicle to his psychedelic productions and experimentations, but his other guinea pigs – The Temptations – were better at doing his music. The Tempts version appears on their classic album “The Sky’s the Limit”. I absolutely LOVE this album and can’t understand why it was and still is so under-rated today. The classic “Just My Imagination” is on this lp, which is Eddie Kendrick’s last Temptations outing, but you never hear any of the other tracks on radio today. I guess the songs aren’t short enough for today’s fast-paced radio.

I will save my discussion of this lp and the mighty mighty HOF Temptations for another post, another day.

Here is the Undisputed Truth’s version of “Smiling Faces Sometimes”:


Undisputed Truth – Smiling Faces Sometimes (1971)

And here is the Temptations’ version:

The Temptations

The Temptations – Smiling Faces Sometimes (1971)

Poll: Which group performed “Smiling Faces” better?

Thanks for reading and voting. Now you can move on to part two (1/1/09) to see what other Motown Artists covered “Smiling Faces Sometimes”  here.


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31 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The song Smiling Faces was also recorded later in the 70’s by another artist. Do you know who perhaps? I have been looking everywhere without success. The intro starts with a bass guitar!
    Thank you,

    • The name of the band is ‘Rare Earth’. It’s the first version I’ve heard, lots of years ago, though it’s a remake.

  2. Hi Chris,

    I am only familiar with these two classic vocal versions. But jazz flautist Barbara Ann (“Bobbi”) Humphrey recorded the song in the seventies! Could that be what you are looking for?
    Let me know! And thanks for visiting by blog.

  3. another great song..


  4. Musicologist,

    Whitfield & Strong *did* write a masterpiece in “Smiling Faces” didn’t they? I’m curious … which version do you prefer – The UT’s or the Tempts?

  5. Why haven’t you posted the version performed by The Dramatics?

  6. Hi Edmundo,

    I thought a while about whether or not I should reply to you in public or private and finally decided that I would give you a public reply that might benefit others.

    To my knowledge the Dramatics never recorded “Smiling Faces, Sometimes” for public consumption. For the life of me I could not figure out where you would get such a notion from so I did a “google” on the internet and found that The Undisputed Truth version is listed on Imeen as being sung by the Dramatics.

    If you listen to the UT version here, you will see it is the same version on Imeen labeled as being sung by the Dramataics.

    Nobody is perfect so to confirm I have checked both ASCAP and BMI and found that the song was never licenced to Dramatics, The Dramatics, or Dramatics, The.

    Also you may check here for yourself (http://nasastyle.com/dramatics/disco.htm) and see that it does not appear on any of the albums in The Dramatics Discography.

    You may also check Amazon to see that the song does NOT appear of the album that the Imeen poster says it does.

    Finally, I decided to respond to you in public so that others would know that a lot of music online is mislabled and misrepresented. I suppose Imeen is the 21st century version of Kazaa and Limewire and other P2P music sharing sites that have a wealth of mislabeled music.

    I want my readers to know that I will always strive for accuracy here and if there is something I don’t know or am not sure about I will say so.

    In the meantime enjoy the music.

    Peace and love.


  7. Hi Musicologist – I somehow overlooked responding to your post and I apologize profusely.

    I can tell you I prefer the Tempts version of “Smiling Faces” or the Truth’s version. But heck, I am very biased since I love, love, love the HOF5 Tempts. I think they were the best blend of male voices ever! When Eddie Kendrick left the group I literally cried and the group was never the same again (IMHO).

    But I will admit that the Temptations’ “A Song For You” was a classic LP that was put out without Sweet Ed.

    Keep Oldies Alive!


  8. Here’s an odd coincidence:

    “Smiling Faces Sometimes” was originally recorded by the Temptations but the Undisputed Truth had the hit version.
    “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” was originally recorded by the Undisputed Truth but the Temptations had the hit version.

    Cool, huh?

  9. Yep – Synchronicity Andy —
    Things that make you go hmmm.
    Thanks for visiting and thanks for the trivia.

  10. Hi Sondan! I’m sitting here now having a jam fest! lol. Old memories have resurfaced. This song takes me way back. This song gave me wisdom on cutting loose from friendships that were destined to be a detriment.

    Translation: I had a lot of smiling faces around me back in the day. Old memories. These songs nowadays don’t impart wisdom like this anymore…or is it me? Gotta go sleep. Love E

  11. You are absolutely, positively spot on about the older songs imparting wisdom E. The lyrics always were about love and life experiences — not like the songs today that are about nothing but a beat and some groans.

    The song lyrics were mostly written by young artists about their lives: they wrote about what they knew and aspired to be. I think that is why we listeners related to the songs so much.

    I recall in a rare interview Eddie Kendrick, of Temptations fame, said when asked about Gospel music that all of The Temptations songs were about the Gospel — just insert God in place of the girl and there you have it.

    Now I am paraphrasing the heck out of the statement but you get the gist of it. When I find the exact quote I will post it here since I keep everything and know I have it stored someplace on my pc.



  12. Chris might be referring – though I hope it is not true – to the Rare Earth (who will not be featured in the revolution,as Gil Scott-Heron aptly raps).
    But they did it too.
    Or does he/she meant David Ruffin? That is truly another really great version!

  13. Hi AdR,

    Welcome to OSML!

    OMG! I cannot imagine Rare Earth singing this song but of course it makes sense that Gordy would have the group sing all of the songs he owned the publishing rights to that he possible could. I have never heard their version and would be interested in hearing it. Can you point me to it?

    Well we know David Ruffin can sing anything but I was concentrating on comparing “groups” here. David was the man!

    Thanks so much for your input and please do keep me in mind if you come across the Rare Earth version of SF. They are not particularly on my list of faves so I don’t own any of their music. But I did enjoy them recently on one of those PBS “Oldies” special. The lead singer still had his chops.

    Hope you stop by again soon. Please don’t be a stranger.


  14. as much as I love the tempts, undisputed truth, hands down.

  15. well , one more recording for your ear
    the late Issac Hayes and Joan Osborne recording this song also
    it is on Her How sweet it is CD

    and i love undisputed truth version !!!!

  16. Hi Sharla,

    I heard Joan Osboure’s version during the Funk Brothers Tour/Movie. It was ok but I do not recall ever hearing Isaac Hayes’ version. I will look out for that one this weekend. I am curious to know how he handles it with his deep baritone in a “Stax” style of music instead of “the Motown Sound”!. R.I.P. Mr. Hayes. We really miss you.

    I love both of these Motown versions and can’t really decide my favorite. UD’s version is great and loved by all — but I am a die-hard Eddie Kendrick fan and he can sing no wrong in my eyes.(LOL) Dear Sweet “Cornbread may he R.I.P.

    Have a great weekend lady! I missed seeing you around here. Hope all is well with you.

  17. Our prayers and sympathy go to the Whitfield family. I listened to much of the work Norman Whitfield worked on with the Temptations, including “Masterpeice” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone while in high school and college in New Orleans. God bless Norman Whitfield!

    By the way, I like the Undisputed Truth’s version, but I loved The Temptations’ twelve minutes and forty seconds of legendary sounds of orchestra and vocals.

    Keep up the good work on the site!



    Hi Byron,

    Thanks so much for your participation and kind words. I appreciate your visit and glad you are enjoying it here. I do apologize to the delay in responding. Sometimes an email will get “lost in the shuffle” and overlooked until it is “inbox clean-up time”.

    Please keep coming around to enjoy the oldies with me.



  18. […] that you were able to share your genius with the world. If you don’t know Norman listen to this to hear his genius. Published […]

  19. This was a tough choice. I think in the end the UT version wins. However, I must say I definitely like the Tempts version as well. Here you can hear how Norman Whitfield experimented with sounds and effect starting in the early seventies. Listen to the guitar sounds during the intro. Sounds pretty cool! And listen tot the sound effect at 00:09:09 and at 00:11:55 all through the end. Combined with the driving rhythm it makes for some compelling listening. If this isn’t psychedelic soul, then tell me what is!

    I was actually looking for information about Whitfield to write an obituary on my blog (which unfortunately is in Dutch, by the way).
    I’m not quite old enough to remember this song, but I’m glad I ran into these great versions, which they both are!

    Kind regards,

  20. Hi Mattijs,

    Glad you found me so you could listen to and be reminded of Mr.Whitfield’s wonderful talent. In your obit you should call him the “Godfather of Psychedelic Soul”. I think Shuggie Otis invented it, Sly Stone took it in a different direction to the masses but Whitfield perfected it! Hmm, on second thought maybe I should get a copyright on the phrase myself since I just made it up on the spur (LOL)!

    Since I can’t read Dutch would you be so kind as to share with me an English translation of your finished product? I would love to read it.

    And thanks for directing me to some specifics of Whitfield’s genius. When I get home from work I will have to give a concentrated listen to both “SF” versions giving special attention to the markers you have provided.

    Please don’t be a stranger here.


  21. Chris:
    Perhaps it was Charles Brown?

  22. Before I post I must say that I absolutely love this site. BRAVO!! for keeping the oldies alive. Now I must say that I love The Tempts, but I would be proven a liar if I were to say that I like their version over Undisputed Truth. Undisputed Truth version stays with me simply because of the vocal range Joe Harris sings in. Now don’t get me wrong I love Eddie’s High Tenor/Falsetto voice, but I always thought that Dennis would have done a better job singing lead on this track. Dennis has a very powerful voice and this song needed a powerful voice for the lyrics alone. However The Tempts timid Music suited the song better in my opinion. Overall both groups brought out the song in their own way, and both groups were clearly awarded in the end.

  23. Sondan:

    Thank you for posting a compelling side by side comparison of this great song. I was sold on The Undisputed Truth’s version, as the Tempts version starts awfully slow. However, the slow build of tempo and instrumental complexity by the Tempts is absolutely riveting as it develops. Much like Papa was a Rolling Stone…This is a Norman Whitfield masterpiece. Now if you could find ‘I’m Alive’ by Johnny Thunder…

  24. Hi Klarc,

    You are certainly welcomed for this post. And you are right that the Tempts version is a Norman Whitfield Classic (R.I.P). I have read over and over that the Tempts didn’t like doing the “Psychedelic stuff” and wanted to remains singing love songs, but I must admit that they sure did a bang up job at something they didn’t like. Guess that goes to show you what true professionals they were.

    I don’t have “I’m Alive” but I will certainly look for it for you.

    Hope to see and hear more from you. I appreciated your visit.

  25. Dear soulmusic247.

    I sincerely thank you for your complement and am very glad you share my love of oldies as evidenced by you “keeping the oldies of Marvin Gaye alive” at you forum. (LOL) Looks like a great project you have there and I plan to spend some time reading around this weekend.

    Now as for “SF”, your comments are duly noted because BOTH versions hold a special place in my heart as well — but Sweet Eddie’s tenor give the Tempts version the edge for me.

    I think that a later Temptations’ version with Dennis on lead would probably have sounded much like the Truth’s version. Whitfield knew just what he was doing — and I think that was trying out the same song different ways with different artists and seeing what stuck! The Motown stable of artists was so remarkably talented that everything always worked IMHO.

    Hope to chat back at ‘cha soon, both here and at your Marvin Gaye forum. Please don’t be a stranger here.


  26. The Tempts version is the best I love the extended version and the Bass Line which is classic James Jamerson The undisputed truth version is Bob Babbit.Also for the person that wanted to know The other artist that did Smiling Faces was none other than the Great David Ruffin. Thanks for the posting!!!!!

  27. Yippee — someone else who favors the Temps version.
    Thanks for checking in with your favorite Dave and welcome to OSML.

    Also thanks for commenting that the other Motown artist who covered “SF” was David Ruffin. I listened to his version and did not like it at all: he sort of ignored the entire melody. I don’t recall ever hearing it before but if I did I probaly dismissed in because it was so awful.

    I will update this post to include Ruffin’s version in this Motown thread in the next few days.

    Thanks again for you input and help. See you soon. 😉

  28. Yippee — someone else who favors the Temps version.
    Thanks for checking in with your favorite Dave and welcome to OSML.

    Also thanks for commenting that the other Motown artist who covered “SF” was David Ruffin. I listened to his version and did not like it at all: he sort of ignored the entire melody. I don’t recall ever hearing it before but if I did I probaly dismissed in because it was so awful.

    I will update this post to include Ruffin’s version in this Motown thread in the next few days.

    Thanks again for you input and help. See you soon. 😉

  29. […] The most successful post (meaning the most hits) on this blog to date has been for “Smiling Faces Sometimes 1971.“  Since the song is a favorite,  My New Year’s gift to you wonderful visitors in […]

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