Smiling Faces Sometimes

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"Smiling Faces Sometimes"
Single by The Undisputed Truth
from the album The Undisputed Truth
Released May 13, 1971
Format 7" single
Recorded Hitsville U.S.A. (Studio A); 1971
Genre Psychedelic soul
Length 3:16
Label Gordy
G 7108
Writer(s) Norman Whitfield
Barrett Strong
Producer(s) Norman Whitfield
The Undisputed Truth singles chronology
"Save My Love For A Rainy Day"
"Smiling Faces Sometimes"
"You Make Your Own Heaven And Hell Right Here On Earth"

"Smiling Faces Sometimes" is a soul song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for the Motown label. The song was originally recorded by the Temptations in 1971. Producer Norman Whitfield had the song re-recorded by the Undisputed Truth the same year, resulting in a number-three Billboard Hot 100 position for the group. "Smiling Faces" was the only Top 40 single released by the Undisputed Truth, and was included on their debut album The Undisputed Truth.


Both versions of "Smiling Faces Sometimes" deal with the same subject matter, "back-stabbing" friends who do their friends wrong behind their backs ("Smiling faces sometimes...they don't tell the truth...smiling faces sometimes tell lies"), but in different ways. The Temptations' original uses an arrangement similar to a haunted house film score to represent feelings of fear and timidness. Included on the 1971 Sky's the Limit album, "Smiling Faces Sometimes" runs over 12 minutes, most of which is extended instrumental passages without any vocals. An edited version was planned as the Temptations' summer 1971 single release, but this plan was dropped when lead vocalist Eddie Kendricks, frustrated by personnel problems within the group, quit the Temptations and signed a solo deal with Motown in March 1971.

Whitfield was known for recording dramatically different versions of the same song with different Motown artists, including Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (re-recorded as hit records for Gladys Knight & the Pips, and Marvin Gaye) and the Temptations' "War" (re-recorded as a hit for Edwin Starr). After Kendricks left The Temptations, an undaunted Whitfield re-recorded the song with his latest protégés, psychedelic trio Undisputed Truth. Billboard ranked the resulting single as the No. 14 song for 1971.[1] It has since been covered by Bobbi Humphrey, Joan Osborne, Rare Earth, and others.

Future Undisputed Truth singles would never make it higher than #63, a position attained by both 1972's "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" and 1974's "Help Yourself". "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" was re-recorded by The Temptations shortly after its release, and the re-recorded version (which was nearly 12 minutes long, analogous to The Temptations' version of "Smiling Faces Sometimes" in comparison to The Undisputed Truth version) became not only a #1 pop hit, but a three-time Grammy Award winner as well.

The O'Jays' similarly themed 1972 hit "Back Stabbers" quotes the lyrics "smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes...(tell lies)" in the refrain near the end of the song.

Whitfield later revisited the song for the 1973 album Ma, recorded by Motown's white rock band, Rare Earth, which he produced and wrote.

In 2013, "Smiling Faces Sometimes" was featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto V.


Temptations version[edit]

Undisputed Truth version[edit]

  • Lead and background vocals by Joe Harris, Billie Rae Calvin, and Brenda Joyce

East Of Underground version[edit]

  • Released on their self-titled album in 1971 and re-issued in 2007.

Bobbi Humphrey version[edit]

Rare Earth version[edit]

  • Released on their 1973 album Ma, also produced by Norman Whitfield, with lead vocals by Peter Hoorelbeke.

David Ruffin version[edit]

Joan Osborne version[edit]