Games People Play (Joe South song)

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"Games People Play"
Games People Play - Joe South.jpg
Single by Joe South
from the album Introspect
B-side"Mirror of Your Mind"
ReleasedAugust 1968
GenreFolk rock, country rock, psychedelic rock, raga rock
Songwriter(s)Joe South
Producer(s)Joe South
Joe South singles chronology
"Birds of a Feather"
"Games People Play"
"Don't It Make You Want to Go Home"

"Games People Play" is a song written, composed, and performed by American singer-songwriter Joe South, released in August 1968,[1] that won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Song and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.[2]


"Games People Play" is a protest song whose lyrics speak against various forms of hatred, hypocrisy, inhumanity, intolerance, and irresponsibility, in both interpersonal and social interactions between people.[citation needed] Billboard favorably reviewed the song some three months after its release and eight weeks before it finally reached the Hot 100.[3]

The song was released on South's debut album Introspect and as a single, reaching No. 12 on the Hot 100.[4] It was also a No. 6 hit in the UK in 1969, No. 4 in Ireland, and won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Song and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.[2]

The distinctive guitar in the opening is played on a Danelectro electric sitar,[5] which can be seen in a video recorded to support South's album Introspect. Concurrent with South's version of the song on the pop chart, Freddy Weller, guitarist for Paul Revere and the Raiders, released a country version of the song in 1969 as his debut single; this rendition spent two weeks at No. 2 on the country chart.[6]


Inner Circle version[edit]

"Games People Play"
Inner Circle-Games People Play.jpg
Single by Inner Circle
from the album Reggae Dancer
Songwriter(s)Joe South
  • Touter Harvey
  • Ian Lewis
Inner Circle singles chronology
"Sweat (A La La La La Long)"
"Games People Play"
"Summer Jammin'"
Music video
"Games People Play" on YouTube

"Games People Play" was covered by Jamaican reggae band Inner Circle on their 1994 album, Reggae Dancer. In the US, it peaked at number 84 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 51 on the Cash Box Top 100. In Europe, it was successful, reaching the Top 10 in several countries, like the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. The single reached its best chart position in Finland, where it peaked at number two. Outside Europe, it also hit number four in New Zealand.

Critical reception[edit]

Larry Flick from Billboard wrote, "Reggae outfit is once again ready for top 40 picking with this rendition of Joe South's 1969 hit. Although band has many of its own solid songs to offer, there is no denying that reggae clicks with pop programmers faster when wrapped around a familiar tune. Once attitudes change in the mainstream, then maybe we'll get more original singles. In the meantime, enjoy Inner Circle's deft musicianship and charming vocals."[15] Alan Jones from Music Week deemed it "another reggae cover of little significance but great potential", adding that this version "is bright, bouncy and competent. It's already a huge hit in Europe, and an MTV staple, so UK success seems simply a matter of time."[16] Mark Sutherland from Smash Hits gave the song four out of five, saying, "If everything in Life was as reliable as Inner Circle. Every summer they seem to come up with the perfect smiley reggae record." He described it as "a bounce-along beach party of a choon with a, erm, "NA NA NA" chorus. Unbeatable as a soundtrack for beach volleyball – and as big a hit as their lard-tub guitarist."[17]

Music video[edit]

A music video was produced to promote the single, directed by Mathias Julien.[18] It features the band performing on the beach. Other times they perform in a boat. Julien also directed the video for the band's 1992 hit, "Sweat (A La La La La Long)".

Track listing[edit]

  • CD maxi, Europe (1994)
  1. "Games People Play" (Radio Edit) – 3:26
  2. "Games People Play" (Miami Mix) – 3:55
  3. "Games People Play" (Big Game Dub) – 5:07
  4. "Games People Play" (Extended Version) – 5:40


Other cover versions[edit]

"Games People Play" has been covered by, at least, 39 artists in total,[26] including by the Staple Singers, Mel Torme, Hank Williams Jr., Tesla (band), Murray Head, Bill Haley & His Comets, Johnnie Taylor, the Georgia Satellites, Lee Dorsey, Jerry Lee Lewis, Petula Clark, Dionne Warwick, Dick Gaughan, Lissie, Waylon Jennings, Jeannie C. Riley, Nathan Abshire and Conway Twitty.[26]


  1. ^ "Games People Play / Mirror of Your Mind - Joe South". Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  2. ^ a b "Joe South". 23 November 2020.
  3. ^ "Spotlight Singles: Special Merit Spotlight" (PDF). Billboard. 1968-11-16. p. 74. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  4. ^ "Games People Play (song by Joe South)". Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  5. ^ Thom Hickey (2016-02-01). "Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin & Elvis all revered Joe South : Games People Play". The Immortal Jukebox. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 379.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Joe South - Games People Play". Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  8. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Games People Play". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  9. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  10. ^ a b Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  11. ^ "RPM Top Singles of 1969". Library and Archives Canada. RPM. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  12. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1969". Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  13. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1969/Top 100 Songs of 1969 | Music Outfitters". Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  14. ^ "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 27, 1969". Archived from the original on January 25, 2019. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  15. ^ Flick, Larry (August 13, 1994). "Single Reviews" (PDF). Billboard. p. 61. Retrieved March 20, 2021.
  16. ^ Jones, Alan (September 3, 1994). "Market Preview: Mainstream - Singles" (PDF). Music Week. p. 18. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  17. ^ Sutherland, Mark (August 17, 1994). "New Singles". Smash Hits. p. 51. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  18. ^ "Games People Play by Inner Circle". Retrieved October 17, 2021.
  19. ^ "Inner Circle – New Zealand Chart". Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  20. ^ "Dance Singles" (PDF). Music Week. 10 September 1994. p. 30. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  21. ^ "Árslistinn 1994". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). January 2, 1995. p. 25. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  22. ^ "JAAROVERZICHTEN - Single 1994". (in Dutch). Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  23. ^ "End of Year Charts 1994". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  24. ^ "Årslista Singlar, 1994" (in Swedish). Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
  25. ^ "SCHWEIZER JAHRESHITPARADE 1994". Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  26. ^ a b "Covers of Games People Play by Joe South". WhoSampled. Retrieved May 13, 2021.

External links[edit]