I bet you're wond'ring how I knew
'Bout your plans to make me blue
With some other girl you knew before
Between the two of us girls
You know I love you more
It took me by surprise I must say
When I found out yesterday
I heard it through the grapevine
Gladys Knight & the Pips recorded "Grapevine" (with the lyrics rewritten to make the song suitable for a female singer rather than a male) in June 1967.
Gordy didn't think much of their recording either, and Motown didn't do much to support it. But the single reached #1 on the Billboard R&B chart in November of that year and remained at #1 for six weeks. It almost made it to the top spot on the Pop chart as well, but peaked at #2 (behind only the Monkees' "Daydream Believer").
Give Norman Whitfield credit. He still believed in the Marvin Gaye "Grapevine," and pushed Gordy to release it as well. The song was added to a Gaye album that came out in September 1968, but was not released as a single until so many radio DJs started playing it that Gordy finally relented.
Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" outsold all previously released Motown singles. It stayed at #1 on both the Billboard Pop and R&B charts for seven consecutive weeks in late 1968 and early 1969.
I wonder if Berry Gordy ever said to Norman Whitfield, "You were right and I was wrong." Probably not.
The Gladys Knight version of the song is fine, but I don't think the performance was a particularly convincing interpretation of the song. Gaye's record, by contrast, is perfect. Whitfield dug deep into his ball of producer's tricks, and he hit the ball way out of the park.
Here's Gladys Knight & the Pips lip-synching to "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" on Soul Train:
Here's a link to Amazon: