Money (That's What I Want)

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"Money (That's What I Want)"
MoneyBStrong single.jpg
Single by Barrett Strong
B-side"Oh I Apologize"
ReleasedAugust 1959 (1959-08)
Format45 rpm record
GenreRhythm and blues
Barrett Strong singles chronology
"Let's Rock"
"Money (That's What I Want)"
"Yes, No Maybe So"

"Money (That's What I Want)" is a rhythm and blues song written by Tamla founder Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford, which was the first hit record for Gordy's Motown enterprise. Barrett Strong recorded it in 1959 as a single for the Tamla label, distributed nationally on Anna Records. Many artists later recorded the tune, including the Beatles in 1963 and the Flying Lizards in 1979.

Composition and recording[edit]

The song developed out of a spontaneous recording session at the Hitsville studio A in Detroit.[1] Gordy and Strong began by improvising on piano and vocals and were joined by Benny Benjamin on drums and Brian Holland on tambourine.[1] Authors Jim Cogan and William Clark only identify the guitarist and bass guitarist as "two white kids walking home from high school [who] heard the music out on the street and wandered in to Hitsville [and] asked if they could play along." They add "Strong claimed he never saw the two boys who played bass and guitar again."[1] However, the guitarist has also been identified as Eugene Grew, who claimed that Barrett showed him what to play.[2]

Barrett begins with a bluesy piano riff, with the rest of the instruments gradually falling in.[1] The figure is a key element of the song and is repeated throughout the piece by the piano, bass guitar and guitar, with background vocals by the Rayber Voices.[1] Author Nick Talevski calls the song an "R&B classic"[3] and it is identified as having a "Detroit R&B sound" by Mark Lewisohn.[4] Music journalist Charles Shaar Murray describes "Money" as "one of the earliest Motown classics from the days when the label left some of R&B's rough edges in place."[5]


The song was originally recorded by Barrett Strong and released on Tamla in August 1959.[6] Anna Records was operated by Gwen Gordy, Anna Gordy and Roquel "Billy" Davis. Gwen and Anna's brother Berry Gordy had just established his Tamla label (soon Motown would follow) and licensed the song to the Anna label in 1960, which was distributed nationwide by Chicago-based Chess Records in order to meet demand; the Tamla record was a resounding success in the Midwestern United States.[citation needed]

In the US, the single became Motown's first hit in June 1960, making it to number two on the Hot R&B Sides chart and number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100.[7] The song was listed as number 288 on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Greil Marcus has pointed out that "Money" was the only song that brought Strong's name near the top of the national music charts, "but that one time has kept him on the radio all his life."[8]

Virtually all of the records issued were 45s; the 10-inch 78 format, issued on Anna Records, is described as "extremely rare".[citation needed]

Writing credits dispute[edit]

Singer Barrett Strong claims that he co-wrote the song with Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford.[9] His name was removed from the copyright registration three years after the song was written, restored in 1987 when the copyright was renewed, and then excised again the following year. Gordy has stated that Strong's name was only included because of a clerical error.[2]


The Beatles version[edit]

"Money (That's What I Want)"
Sheet music cover
Song by the Beatles
from the album With the Beatles
ReleasedNovember 22, 1963 (1963-11-22)
RecordedJuly 18, 1963
StudioEMI, London
GenreRock and roll[10]
Producer(s)George Martin
Audio sample
19 seconds with refrain


The Beatles recorded "Money" in seven takes on July 18, 1963, with their usual lineup. A series of piano overdubs was later added by producer George Martin. The song was released in November 1963 as the final track on their second UK album, With the Beatles.[11]

According to George Harrison, the group discovered Strong's version in Brian Epstein's NEMS record store (though not a hit in the UK, it had been issued on London Records in 1960). They had previously performed it during their audition at Decca Records on January 1, 1962, with Pete Best still on drums at the time. They also recorded it six times for BBC radio. A live version, taped at a concert date in Stockholm, Sweden, in October 1963, was included on Anthology 1.[11]

In 2018, the music staff of Time Out London ranked "Money (That's What I Want)" at number 24 on their list of the best Beatles songs.[12]


The Flying Lizards version[edit]

The Flying Lizards - Money.jpg
Single by the Flying Lizards
from the album The Flying Lizards
B-side"Money B"
ReleasedJuly 13, 1979 (1979-07-13)
GenreNew wave[13]
Producer(s)David Cunningham

In July 1979, the British band the Flying Lizards released a new wave version of the song, as a single and on their first album The Flying Lizards. An unexpected hit,[14] this version peaked at number 5 in the UK chart and at number 50 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also peaked at number 22 on the US dance charts.

Chart performance[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1979–80) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[15] 11
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[16] 23
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[17] 28
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[18] 7
France (IFOP)[19] 39
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[20] 33
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[21] 37
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[22] 5
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[23] 5
US Billboard Hot 100[24] 50
US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play[24] 22
US Cash Box[25] 34

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1980) Position
Australia (Kent Music Report)[26] 71
Canada (RPM Top Singles)[27] 59
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[28] 32

Other versions[edit]

The song has been covered by many artists, with several of the versions appearing in a variety of charts. For example, the Kingsmen reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 6 in the US R&B charts in 1964,[29][30] Jennell Hawkins reached number 17 in the R&B charts with her recording in 1962.[31] Jr. Walker & the All Stars reached number 52 on the Hot 100 and number 35 on the R&B charts in 1966[32] and Bern Elliott and the Fenmen reached number 14 on the UK Singles Chart in November 1963.[33] It was included as the third track on Jerry Lee Lewis' 1964 UK-only release Live at the Star Club, Hamburg, a record often cited as the greatest rock and roll record ever recorded.[34][35]

The song was a staple for British beat bands.[36] Among the artists that released cover versions were the Searchers, the Undertakers, Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes and the Rolling Stones.[36] It was also covered by Freddie and the Dreamers and John Lee Hooker.[37] The song was covered during live performances by the Doors and appears twice on their 2009 released album Live in New York, which covers four sets from January 1970.[38] It also appears on their live album Live in Vancouver 1970 and the bootleg album Boot Yer Butt: The Doors Bootlegs.[39][40]

The song was covered by the Malaysian singer Cheryl K in two different versions for the 2018 film Crazy Rich Asians. Both have modified lyrics with added Chinese verses, but the second version further features Awkwafina and has lyrics that are almost entirely rewritten.[41]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Cogan, Jim; Clark, William (2003). Temples of Sound: Inside the Great Recording Studios. San Francisco, California: Chronicle Books.
  2. ^ a b c d Rohter, Larry (August 31, 2013). "For a Classic Motown Song About Money, Credit Is What He Wants". The New York Times. Retrieved September 3, 2013.
  3. ^ Talevski, Nick (2006). Rock Obituaries: Knocking On Heaven's Door. Voyageur Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-76034-546-7.
  4. ^ Lewisohn, Mark (2013). Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years. Crown/Archetype. p. 540. ISBN 978-0-80413-934-2.
  5. ^ Murray, Charles Shaar (2013). Boogie Man: The Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the American Twentieth Century. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 225. ISBN 978-1-46685-236-5.
  6. ^ The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 1: 1959-61 (CD liner notes). New York: Hip-O Select/Motown/Universal Records.
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 554.
  8. ^ Marcus, Greil (2015). The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 169.
  9. ^ Delisi, Ann (February 20, 2016). "Interview: Barrett Strong Talks About the Early Days of Motown". WDET-FM. Retrieved December 7, 2018.
  10. ^ Wyman, Bill (June 7, 2017). "All 213 Beatles Songs, Ranked From Worst to Best". Vulture. Retrieved January 26, 2018.
  11. ^ a b "Money (That's What I Want)". The Beatles Bible. Retrieved October 30, 2008.
  12. ^ Time Out London Music (24 May 2018). "The 50 Best Beatles songs". Time Out London. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  13. ^ Cateforis, Theo (2011). Are We Not New Wave? : Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s. University of Michigan Press. p. 97. ISBN 0-472-03470-7.
  14. ^ Deming, Mark. "The Flying Lizards – Artist Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  15. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Hung Medien. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  16. ^ " – The Flying Lizards – Money" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  17. ^ " – The Flying Lizards – Money" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  18. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0141a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  19. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Titres par Artiste" (in French). InfoDisc. Select "Flying Lizards" from the artist drop-down menu. Archived from the original on September 20, 2013. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  20. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – The Flying Lizards - Money" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  21. ^ " – The Flying Lizards – Money" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  22. ^ " – The Flying Lizards – Money". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  23. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  24. ^ a b "The Flying Lizards – Awards". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  25. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending FEBRUARY 2, 1980". Archived from the original on September 13, 2012.. Cash Box.
  26. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Hung Medien. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  27. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 34, No. 6, December 20, 1980". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  28. ^ "End of Year Charts 1980". Recorded Music New Zealand. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  29. ^ Eder, Bruce. "The Kingsmen – The Best of the Kingsmen [Rhino]". AllMusic. Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  30. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2006). The Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B and Hip Hop Hits. New York: Billboard Books. p. 322. ISBN 0-8230-8283-0.
  31. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2006). The Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B and Hip Hop Hits. New York: Billboard Books. ISBN 0-8230-8283-0.
  32. ^ "Junior Walker – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  33. ^ "Bern Elliott & the Fenmen". Official Charts Company. Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  34. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Jerry Lee Lewis: "Live" at the Star Club, Hamburg [Rhino, 1992]". Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  35. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Jerry Lee Lewis – Live at the Star-Club, Hamburg". AllMusic. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  36. ^ a b Leigh, Spencer (2015). Best of the Beatles: The sacking of Pete Best. McNidder and Grace Limited. ISBN 9780857161024.
  37. ^ Webb, Robert (2012). "Money (That's What I Want)". 100 Greatest Cover Versions: The Ultimate Playlist. McNidder & Grace. pp. 200–01.
  38. ^ Planer, Lindsay. "The Doors – Live in New York". AllMusic. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  39. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "The Doors – Live in Vancouver 1970". AllMusic. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  40. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "The Doors – Boot Yer Butt!". AllMusic. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  41. ^ Emmanuele, Julia (August 25, 2018). "All the Songs in 'Crazy Rich Asians' That You'll Want to Listen to Over & Over Again". Bustle. Retrieved December 9, 2018.

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