Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
In 1965, the Isley Brothers were looking for a bigger label to help them grow, and found it in Tamla/Motown. The then-trio of O’Kelly, Rudolph and Ronald Isley sang this Holland/Dozier/Holland composition, Ronald on lead vocals, with Motown’s crack Funk Brothers session team on the instrumental heft. As with so many of the songs from Motown on the 60s, it is a masterclass of construction, from the opening propulsive percussion and the piano riff that immediately identifies it. The orchestra swoops in and the brothers start to emote, before Ronald pipes up with the lead vocal. The xylophone is a magical addition, a catalytic converter that seems to spark and stimulate the responses of Rudolph and Kelly. Magnificent, even as a honking sax plays a baritone solo, a song that has continued to resonate over the subsequent years.
“This Old Heart Of Mine” was first a hit in 1966, and was the Isley Brothers’ biggest Motown success, reaching (only!) number 12 on the Billboard chart that year. In the UK it fared worse, reaching number 47, and then better, hitting the number 2 slot on a 1968 re-release. It seems odd that Motown let them go shortly thereafter. Berry Gordy, who’s been known to make a mistake or two, told them that “It’s Your Thing” was not the kind of music he wanted them recording. But irreconcilable differences don’t always spell “The End.” Cue the brothers setting up their own label, and history!
So what other artists had old hearts that were weak for the song? Listen and learn…