Games People Play (Joe South song)

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"Games People Play"
Single by Joe South
from the album Introspect
B-side "Mirror Of Your Mind"
Released December 1968
Genre Rock, pop
Length 3:34
Writer(s) Joe South
Producer(s) Joe South
Joe South singles chronology
"You're the Reason"
"Games People Play"
"Birds of a Feather"

"Games People Play" is a song written, composed and performed by American singer-songwriter Joe South, released at the end of 1968.

Origins and inspirations[edit]

The lyrics and title are thought to be a direct reference to Eric Berne's work on transactional analysis of the same name. The book, published in 1964, deals with the "games" human beings play in interacting with one another. The lyrics seem to exhibit their author (South) playing a game of sorts with pronouns, converging in stages on the listener ("you") as perpetrator, roughly from "they" to "we," to "you" (object) and "me," to "you" (subject) and "I."

The song closely resembles an older song, the traditional Cajun "'Tit Galop Pour Mamou", which was played by the Balfa Brothers among others, and is on the Balfas' Play Traditional Cajun Music. After South's hit got around, Nathan Abshire (accordionist with the Balfas and others), recorded a version in French, with singing by Don Guillory, on his album A Cajun Legend. A new Cajun version, introduced by a partial recounting of the genealogy of the versions, is at [1] under the heading Robert Jardell.

Typical of a number of hits in early 1969, the recording includes a lush string sound, an organ, and brass. The arrangement also features a distinctive electric sitar.


"Games People Play" is a protest song whose lyrics speak against various forms of hate, hypocrisy, inhumanity, and intolerance, both interpersonal and social. The song was released on South's debut album Introspect and as a single, reaching #12 on Billboard magazine's Hot 100.[1] It was also a No. 6 hit in the UK in 1969; became the title of his second album, Games People Play, that year; and won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Song and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.

The distinctive guitar in the opening is played on a Danelectro electric sitar, on which instrument South also can be heard playing in the opening bars of Aretha Franklin's hit song "Chain of Fools". Concurrent with South's version of the song on the pop charts, Freddy Weller, guitarist for Paul Revere and the Raiders, released a country version of the song in 1969 as his debut single on the country charts and reached No. 2 with it.[2]

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by various artists, including

Ed Ames
Bill Anderson
Lynn Anderson
Bob Andy
Big Tom and The Mainliners
Petula Clark
King Curtis (featuring Duane Allman)
DJ Bobo
Lee Dorsey
Winston Francis
Dick Gaughan
The Georgia Satellites
Earl Grant
Jools Holland (with guest vocalist Marc Almond)
Ike & Tina Turner
Inner Circle
Waylon Jennings
Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon
Tom Jones
The Jordanaires
David Knopfler
Henning Kvitnes
Bettye LaVette
Jerry Lee Lewis[3]
Liverpool Express
Dolly Parton (on her 1969 album My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy)
Peggy Sue and Niamh Dunne (a member of Irish folk music group Beoga on here solo album Portraits)
Della Reese
Ray Stevens
Glen P. Stone.
James Taylor
Johnnie Taylor
Mel Torme
The Tremeloes
Truth & Salvage Co.
Don Williams
Hank Williams Jr.
Babado Novo

The South African trio Mark Haze (from season seven of Idols South Africa), Dozi and Ghapi recorded a version on their 2013 album Rocking Buddies.[4]

Claude François released a French) version of the song as "Jeux Dangereux" in 1969. Also in 1969 Renée Martel released another French version of the song as "Nos Jeux d'Enfants."


  1. ^ Joe South's "Games People Play" Chart Position Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 379. 
  3. ^ Jerry Lee Lewis, The Killer Rocks On Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  4. ^ Retrieved 4 February 2014

External links[edit]