Last week, as you will no doubt recall, Soul Serenade focused on the great Laura Nyro and her song “Timer.” This week’s column has a Laura Nyro connection as well. When I first heard “The Bells” it was Laura’s version from her wondrous 1971 covers album Gonna Take A Miracle, which she recorded with the vocal group LaBelle. I liked the song so much that I went in search of the original version which was by, oddly enough, the Originals.
The Originals were a group that spent much of their career standing in the shadows of Motown, though they worked as background singers on some of the label’s biggest hits, including Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” Stevie Wonder’s “For Once In My Life,” and David Ruffin’s “My Whole World Ended.” It wasn’t until 1969 that they were able to break out on their own with Marvin Gaye’s song (he also produced the record) “Baby I’m For Real.” One year later, Gaye provided them with another hit song song (co-written by his wife Anna Gordy Gaye, Iris Gordy, and Elgie Stover), “The Bells”. The single reached #12 on the Billboard Pop Chart, and #2 on the Hot Black Singles Chart. It sold one million copies, and won the group a gold record.
What is perhaps of even more importance is that by producing these two hit singles for The Originals, Marvin Gaye proved that he could create hits for another act, and that paved the way for his classic 1971 album, What’s Going On.
Laura Nyro’s cover of “The Bells”.