For Once in My Life

This is the shortened WIKI narrative of how this pop classic came to Motown.“For Once in My Life” is a pop song written by Ron Miller and Orlando Murden for Motown Records’ Jobete publishing company in 1967. The composition was originally recorded by Jean DuShon who had originally been tapped by Ron Miller to demo “For Once in My Life”, as he was “fine-tuning” the composition. Miller was impressed by DuShon’s rendition of the song, and she released her version as a single on Chess Records’ Cadet label early in 1966.

Motown CEO Berry Gordy found out that Miller, a Motown staff writer, had given the song to an outside artist, and had Miller immediately make the song available for Motown artist Barbara McNair, who included the song on her November 1966 album release, Here I Am, and later for Stevie Wonder and The Temptations to record.

Meanwhile, DuShon’s version made no significant impact on the singles charts, but was chosen “Pick Hit of the Week” by Detroit’s WXYZ in 1966, but Chess Records dropped the ball by not promoting the record. Miss DuShon was so distraught at the failure of the record, she dropped it from her popular nightclub act. “

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Barbara McNair – For Once in My Life (1966)

The beautiful Barbara McNair was the first Motown artist to record this song. It appeared on her first Lp entitled “Here I Am” that was released in November 1966. But all the songs for this outing were recorded much earlier, specifically in October – December 1965 and March to June 1966! The song was also put on the B-side of her single “Steal Away Tonight” but then cancelled for some unknown reason. Eventually, in addition to appearing on “Here I Am” – McNair’s version of FOIML was *finally* released on the B-side of her “Where Would I Be without You” single in March 1968!

The Temptations’ version was done in 1967 for their pop standards album “The Temptations in a Mellow Mood.” I really, really ♥ this album. Paul Williams sings the lead vocal to this ballad that became his signature song in concert. This is one of many live versions on record — all of which are show stoppers BTW.

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The Funk Brothers – For Once In My Life (the funky instrumental track recorded at Motown Studio B on 01/18/1968)

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On the next day Stevie Wonder laid this vocal down to the track!

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And this is the finished version issued as a Stevie Wonder Tamla single on 10/16/1968.
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This version charted #2 R&B and #2 Pop. Ironically this most familiar and most successful version , recorded immediately after DuShon’s original, was not at all Berry Gordy’s choice for favorite: he preferred the slower ballad tempo for this song. Just goes to show that Berry was not infallible. In fact the only reason the song didn’t chart #1 is because the #1 spot was being held by the Motown single Gordy had originally vetoed, Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (BTW – Berry also hated Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”).
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Gladys Knight & The Pips – For Once In My Life (1973)
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GKATP’s cover version of FOIMY was released as the B side of their hit single “Daddy Could Swear, I Declare – both of which appeared on the album release “Neither One of Us”.
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Diana Ross – For Once In My Life
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Diana Ross’ version of FOIML appeared on 1983’s “Motown Superstars Sing Motown Superstars,” but I have no idea when this song was recorded. This compilation seemed to be designed to capitalize on the Motown 25 frenzy – just releasing some of the songs in the vault to make a buck (IMHO). Again, if I do find out the record date of this song I will revise this blog accordingly.
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Ok – now that we have five versions, let’s vote right here.

Thanks for listening to the music and reading.
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18 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. hello my friend this post was so amazing
    thanks for giving us the songs and their background
    can i rank it?
    hmmm i like the GK&TP’s version due to it was so warm to listen and i like diana’s version due to she put a little lively to the song
    of course i always like to listen to all stevie wonder’s songs
    although im afraid i failed to listen to the funk brothers version and im not familiarwith them too
    and the temptations in youtube makes my headache gone i felt asleep actually
    p/s this is my first time to see the young diana shes so pretty
    p/s hmmm can i ask something i just wondering where’s my comments to your prevoius post (hehe just asking)

  2. Hi Bluedreamer,
    Certainly you can rank your favorites. That’s what this blog is all about.

    I too am partial to anything GKATP sang because I just love her voice. Frankly I think that she can sing anything and it sounds as if it was tailor made for her. She gives everything a special “flavor” unique to only Gladys.

    You are familiar with the Funk Brothers and you don’t even know it! The “Funk Brothers” were the Motown “house” band that backed all of the artists. Listen to the instrumental and you will recognize it and love it.

    I have responded to all your comments in the particular post you left them in. I would never forget you Bluedreamer. (BIG SMILE)

    Take Care and keep listening to the music.

    L8tr

  3. I’d like to send you an mp3 of the original, and BEST version of the song by Jean DuShon, who is alive, beautiful and still performing. I put up a Yahoo group in her honor, please check it out:
    http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/jeandushon

  4. Hello there O.P.

    I have signed up to the group and will be reading through the posts to find out all about Jean DuShon, as I am not too familiar with her background, other than being the first to sing FOIML.

    Please, please do send me the mp3 as I would LOVE to hear the original version and will probably eventually do a blog about it under a different theme in the near future. This month’s theme is “Motown Covers Motown”. Maybe I could do a theme on “FIRSTS”.

    Thanks for reading and responding to my blog. I really appreciate your visit and and am super glad to learn more about the great music of the 20th century that I am unaware of. For me blogging is about sharing information and I am loving this opportunity to get to know more about the music and the artists.

    Thanks again and stay in touch.

  5. SonDan…what an incredible presentation! It is clear and obvious that you’re doing a lot of work In fact, I’m so impressed that I’m going to do a reference email in my next Cafe Sozo Report! When we were “little” we all picked one of the Temptations to be our “boyfriends” and Paul was mine. I was so happy hearing him sing the lead vocal. Clearly, all of these versions bring back old memories. Thanks again, E

  6. Lainey, I am so very glad that my efforts are pleasing to you. It makes me feel special and honored to be recognized for just sharing what I think is a great musical history of ours.

    Sooner or later you will find out that my “boyfriend” was Eddie and I just knew that when I grew up, we would meet, marry and have lots of little Eddies (LOL). Since Paul and Eddie were “best friends” we could have been play sisters-in-law (Bwah ha ha).

    Seriously though, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continued support in this endeavor of pleasure.

  7. gheeh thanks (a big big big smile lol)
    i went over you tube to see and listen to funk brothers
    wow i heard the song – so cool and warm

  8. You are so very welcomed. The Funk Brothers are the best! When you get the chance Bluedreamer, you MUST rent or buy the Documentary/Movie “Standing in the Shadows of Motown”. It is the story of (plus a concert by)that wonderful, under-loved group of musicians.

    Keep on listening too, learning and loving the music my friend.

  9. Goil…you know you are too funny! I think I thought I was gonna marry Eddie too. Laugh…I didn’t know any better. One day remind me to give you my long list.

    My husband and I are about to sit and listen to all this good music! Thanks Bye…You have done such a fine job! I never knew that so many people would remake the same song; that’s been overwhelming. Blessings!

  10. Hi Elaine,

    Initially, when I decided to pick the topic “Motown Covers Motown”, I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t come up with enough material for a month’s worth of blogs. But now that the month is ending, and I have discovered so many more songs that were remade by Motown Artists, I will have to do another couple of months throughout the year(s) on this topic to get through all of those songs. It is amazing.

    Keep listening and enjoying the music. And you and you hubby have a great week.

  11. Hey Friend…I just went through all of your sites! Whoa! They’re wonderful too! So, much work! Such great presentations! Good Work girl! I enjoyed everything so much. Bravo! I couldn’t figure out how to put a picture in Multiply to say Hi! If you can tell me how, I would soooo appreciate it!

  12. Sondan, you have a great week too! Bless you. E

  13. Oops – sorry I missed this email yesterday.

    Oh my goodness E. – you went through everything! Betcha you slept like a log (LOL). Thank you for visiting my sites and letting me know what you think, because I really don’t get much feedback.

    I will have to make it a point to make time this weekend to do the same for you. You mentioned that you had many sites, so just hit me up with those links and I’ll be off to the races this weekend.

    As for Multiply, it is like Yahoo 360 and other social networking sites in that you can only post once you join. Then you can type in or cute and paste anything you want in any guestbook. Sign up is free and easy and I encourage you to do so. I will send you an invite if you would like. In fact you might want to start up a group there – at least I can picture you taking your Cafe there. The nice thing about the groups at Multiply are the ease of maintenance and the security features. I have a private blog/group that I set up for family members only since I am working on my Family Tree and it was really easy to do.

    Any way consider it. We can talk about this more if you would like buddy.

    Pace & Love.

  14. […] had finally arrived and I was able to update some posts as promised.  I have added her versions of “For Once in My Life” and “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game”. to the respective […]

  15. Here in Brazil the GK&TP version was a huge success because it was a main romantic theme of a soap opera (“novel”) in TV at 1973.

    I think that this version is very moving song and GN has a great voice.

    The Steve Wonder’s version was a minor hit in Brazil and I don’t like it because I already was used to the other slower version.

    I’ve never heard the other versions.

    Paulo.

  16. I do not have all the details but Diana’s version of For Once is recorded in 1977. It says so on the cover of Motown Superstars Sing Motown Superstars released in 1983 🙂

    ———–
    A belated thanks Helen. I appreciate your effort. SonDan

  17. This.Is.My.Song!

    I LOVE The Temptations so i love anything they do and thats one of my fave Paul performances (he’s my fave Tempt by the way lol). I love Stevie tooo. I neva knew Diana or GKATP did this. And the Funk Brothers are like musical geniuses!

  18. SupaStarry,
    I think that this has got to be Paul’s greatest musical legacy – his version of “For Once in My Life” became his signature song. It is so unfortunate that today’s radio stations don’t play these classics.

    R.I.P brother Paul.


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