Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)
|"Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)"|
|Single by Gladys Knight & the Pips|
|from the album Neither One of Us|
|B-side||"Can't Give It Up No More"|
|Released||December 26, 1972|
|Recorded||MoWest, December 1972|
|Gladys Knight & the Pips singles chronology|
"Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)" is a song recorded by Gladys Knight & the Pips. Released on December 26, 1972 on Motown's Soul Records imprint as S 35098, it became one of their biggest hit singles to date, and was also the last single the group released prior to them leaving Motown for Buddah Records in February 1973.
By 1972, Gladys Knight & The Pips had spent six and a half years with Motown Records, having signed with the label in 1966. Though well known prior to signing with Motown, they achieved widespread success with the label with hits such as "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", "Nitty Gritty" and "If I Were Your Woman". However, the group would recall being treated like outsiders in the label. Lead singer Gladys Knight recalled on A&E's Biography that she and the group were regarded as a second-string act and that "Diana (Ross) & The Supremes, The Temptations and Marvin Gaye were given all the hits, while we took the leftovers". While on Motown, Knight & The Pips recorded for Soul Records, a label Motown used for acts that recorded material with more of an R&B flavor than a pop flavor. In 1972, the group had success with their cover of musician Kris Kristofferson's ballad, "Help Me Make It Through the Night". The song helped to make the group's transition from soul and blues-oriented material to more middle of the road flair.
In late 1972, the group began recording songs for what would be their final album, Neither One of Us, at Motown's Hitsville U.S.A. studios in Detroit. Among the songs they would record that wounded up on the album included a funk-oriented cover of Bill Withers' "Who Is She (And What Is She to You)?", a cover of "For Once in My Life" and a self-penned composition, "Daddy Could Swear, I Declare", the latter song of which they had begun promoting in the summer of 1972 through a performance on the TV program, Soul Train. They also recorded a good portion of the album at Motown's Hollywood studios, MoWest.
They worked on the majority of the album with producer Joe Porter, who allowed the group creative freedom in the studio. According to Bubba Knight, Porter allowed the group to co-produce the album, saying Porter would bring them the songs and allowed them to "mold[ed] it to the Gladys Knight & The Pips' way" and upon hearing their arrangements, would tell engineers to just "turn the tape on". Porter had given them the song titled "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)", a song written and first recorded by fledgling country singer-songwriter Jim Weatherly. Porter had picked the song out from Weatherly's publishing company. Knight recorded her lead vocal in one take at MoWest Studios, with parts of the background by the group already done.
The group then headed back from Los Angeles to Detroit but while in their car, Bubba Knight recounted that them singing the song prompted them to return to the studio to add more to the background, while Gladys redid her lead vocal. During this time period, the group's contract was up for renewal in the winter of 1973. The group eventually refused to renew it after failing to get Motown to renew their contract in "good faith" and eventually asked to be released from their contract.
Release and reaction
Following the completion of the recording, Motown issued it for promotional use in December 1972, not too long afterwards. After negotiations with Motown broke down, the group was allowed to leave the label in January 1973; shortly thereafter, the group signed a contract with Buddah Records the following month in February 1973. By that point, the song was already climbing the charts on both the pop and R&B charts, on its way to give the group their biggest hit since "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" roughly six years before. Motown issued the group's final contractual album, Neither One of Us, that March.
On March 17, 1973, the song reached number one on the Hot Soul Singles chart, staying there for four consecutive weeks. Due to the song's strong crossover appeal, it eventually peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, with Vicki Lawrence's "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" blocking it from number one. However, it went number one on the U.S. Record World and Cashbox charts. It also crossed over to the adult contemporary chart, peaking at number 15. Worldwide, it was also successful, peaking at number 9 in France, number 11 in Canada and number 31 in the UK.
Around this time, the group had released their first Buddah single, "Where Peaceful Waters Flow", which also was written by Jim Weatherly. The song eventually peaked at number 28 on the pop chart, presumably because Motown kept pushing "Neither One of Us" to be played at more radio stations blocking the Buddah single from reaching bigger success. By the time "Neither One of Us" had begun to peak, Buddah issued the group's second single, the Weatherly-composed "Midnight Train to Georgia", in August 1973, where the song eventually topped both pop and R&B charts, pushing the group to superstardom. Despite efforts from Motown to stop "Midnight Train", the first "posthumously"-released Motown song "Daddy Could Swear" only peaked inside the top 20.
On March 2, 1974, at the Grammy Awards ceremony, Gladys Knight & The Pips won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for "Neither One of Us". Previously that same night, they had won their first Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for "Midnight Train to Georgia".
Covers and samples
Asha Puthli recorded a cover of this song on her 1973 self-titled second solo album for CBS.The version of the song by Australian singer Linda George outsold the original in her home country. Saxophonist David Sanborn covered the song from his 1982 album Backstreet. American rock and soul duo Hall & Oates covered the song on their 2004 album Our Kind of Soul. Country singer Bob Luman recorded a successful cover version of "Neither One of Us ... ." His version reached number seven on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, concurrent with the success of the Gladys Knight & the Pips' version. R&B singer Angie Stone also sampled it for "No More Rain (In This Cloud)" from her 1999 album, Black Diamond. Filipina-Jamaican singer Jaya covered the track on her 2011 album All Souled Out, and has included the song in many live performances from the beginning of her singing career. Country artist Linda Davis covered the song on her 1995 album Some Things Were Meant to Be. The German DJ, DJ Koze, sampled the chorus in the single “Pick Up” (released in 2018).
- Lead vocals by Gladys Knight
- Background vocals by Gladys Knight, Bubba Knight, William Guest and Edward Patten
- Instrumentation by the Funk Brothers and assorted orchestra players
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- May 5, 1973
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- Dahl, Bill (February 28, 2011). Motown: The Golden Years: More than 100 photographs. Krause Publications. ISBN 0-87349-286-2.