This was written by Motown artist Brenda Holloway, Patrice Holloway (Brenda’s sister and fellow Motown artist), Frank Wilson (songwriter, singer and record producer for Motown Records) and Berry Gordy (founder and owner of Motown Records), and was released first as a single in 1967 by Brenda Holloway on the Motown-subsidiary Tamla label.
Covered and released by Blood, Sweat and Tears in 1969, it appeared on their second album of the same name and was their first major hit. It climbed into the number 2 position on Billboards Top 100 chart.
Blood, Sweat and Tears was conceived and first formed in 1967 in New York City by songwriter/musician/producer Al Kooper. Kooper had become known from his earlier session work with Bob Dylan, and performed with Bob Dylan in concert in 1965, including playing Hammond organ with Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival, and in the recording studio in 1965 and 1966. Kooper also played the Hammond organ riffs on Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”. It was in those recording sessions that Kooper met and befriended Mike Bloomfield, whose guitar playing he admired. He worked extensively with Bloomfield for several years, resulting in the “Blues Session” project with him and Stephen Stills. He continued with Bloomfield on the Blues Project group. Kooper has played on hundreds of records, including ones by the Rolling Stones, B. B. King, the Who, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Alice Cooper, and Cream. After moving to Atlanta in 1972, he discovered the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and produced and performed on their first three albums.
Al Kooper was Blood, Sweat and Tears’ initial bandleader as it’s founder and fame as a high-profile contributor to various historic sessions of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and others, prominent in the musical counterculture of the mid-sixties.
As for coming up with a name for his new project, in Al Kooper’s book “Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards”, the truth is finally revealed:
One particular night, Jimi Hendrix, B. B. King, myself, and an unidentified drummer and bass player were going at it all night at the Cafe Au Go Go… At daybreak, when we finished playing, they put the house lights on and somebody observed: ‘Christ! Look at the organ! There’s blood all over the keyboard!’ Sure enough, I had cut my hand playing, and in the state of bliss induced by my compatriot’s sound had not felt a thing. What a great album cover, I thought. No. What a great name for a band.
He continued to explain his concept of what he wanted:
A band that could put dents in your shirt if you got within fifteen rows of the stage. Like Maynard Ferguson’s band from the years 1960-1964, I wanted a horn section that would play more than the short adjectives they were relegated to in R&B bands; but, on the other hand, a horn section that would play less than Count Basie’s or Buddy Rich’s. Somewhere in the middle was a mixture of soul, rock, and jazz that was my little fantasy.
Kooper (vocals, keyboards), Jim Fielder (bass), Fred Lipsius (saxophone), Randy Brecker (trumpet), Jerry Weiss (trumpet), Dick Halligan (trombone, organ, flute), Steve Katz (guitarist, singer), and Bobby Colomby (drums) formed the original band. After recording their debut album “Child Is Father to the Man”, growing artistic differences among the founding members resulted in several personnel changes for the second album. Colomby and Katz wanted to move Kooper exclusively to keyboard and composing duties, while hiring a stronger vocalist for the group, causing Kooper’s departure in April 1968.
After Kooper left the group, along with Brecker, Colomby and Katz began to look for a new vocalist. They considered several vocalists, including Stephen Stills and Laura Nyro, but ultimately they decided upon David Clayton-Thomas. David Clayton-Thomas had a regular gig at a New York club called “The Scene” on 47th Street in 1968 when the original Blood, Sweat & Tears fractured. His visa ran out, so he went back to Canada, but not before their friend Judy Collins had seen Clayton-Thomas perform and was so taken and moved by his performance that she told Colomby and Katz about him (knowing that they were looking for a new lead singer to front the band). With her prodding, they came to see Clayton-Thomas perform and were so impressed that he was offered the role of lead singer in a re-constituted Blood Sweat & Tears. Colomby arranged a new visa, and the band had their new singer.
As Juliette Jagger explains on her website, David Clayton-Thomas got his start much like many of the other great Canadian songwriters of the 1960s – as an underage musician playing Toronto’s Yonge Street strip. He honed his chops by sitting in on jam sessions with legendary Arkansas rockabilly wildman Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins and his band The Hawks, before they were known as The Band. David Clayton-Thomas recalls:
The bars on the strip used to have weekend matinees, which didn’t serve liquor, so the young, underage musicians of Toronto could come and watch or sit in with their idols, and The Hawks were really our idols.
In those early days, the bar scene on the Yonge Street strip was a germination point for some extraordinary talent. On a Saturday night it was not uncommon to catch trumpet virtuoso Dizzy Gillespie or blues greats like B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, and Muddy Waters performing at one of the local hotspots like The Colonial Tavern.
A lot of the R&B artists and blues bands from the U.S., particularly Detroit and Chicago, loved to play up here in Toronto because there was no colour bar notes Clayton-Thomas. In the ’60s, a black band in Detroit played in the black clubs, but here audiences just loved them. That made a real impression on us as young Canadian musicians. We grew up going to see some of the greatest players in the world. Those guys are really what started what is called the ‘Toronto Sound.’
At the same time, Toronto’s Yorkville neighborhood housed a vibrant artistic community and was the epicenter of the city’s folk music and counterculture scenes.
Everyone hung around there he says. I used to play the little clubs on Yorkville Ave. at night, and then sit and have coffee in the daytimes at the little sidewalk cafés with Neil [Young], John Kay, Joni [Mitchell] – we all knew each other.
Before long, however, that area dwindled and the artists wandered to other venues and cities. David headed for the New York City jazz scene and was attracted quickly to the Greenwich Village area, where he found a small apartment:
I lived upstairs from a place called the “Café Wha?”, and Jimi Hendrix, who was still going by Jimi James then, was playing in the basement at a club called “The Underground”. Carole King and James Taylor were at “The Bitter End” club. Actually, I used to sub in for James and a band called The Flying Machine on Saturday afternoons because he couldn’t make it in from Boston or wherever the heck he was coming from. So, it was very much a community thing.
During some of this time playing around these clubs and the aforementioned “discovery” by Judy Collins, Things seemed to move at lightning speed after that. Clayton-Thomas recalls:
We knew right from the first rehearsal that we had a very special combination. It was different and there was nothing else out there like it. We got a gig playing a little club called “Café au Go Go” on Bleeker Street, and we played there four or five nights a week. The club only seated 150 people, but there were always a thousand people lined up on the sidewalk trying to get in.
Less than a year later in December of ‘68, Blood, Sweat & Tears released their self-titled sophomore album, which featured David Clayton-Thomas. It was this second album, a 4 times Multi-Platinum, Grammy Award winning Album of the Year, and Billboard number 1, that contained their 3, and only, Top 10 songs. “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” was their first number 2 single, in March 1969, that was followed 2 months later with their second number 2 “Spinning Wheel”.
“Spinning Wheel” was really just my way of saying, ‘Hey, don’t get too caught up in movements because everything comes full-circle says Clayton-Thomas. In 1969 everyone was talking about the anti-war revolution and within five years we had Ronald Reagan. Today, a reality TV star is the President of the United States, so there you have it.
Clayton-Thomas had written the song two years prior to joining Blood, Sweat & Tears and had even recorded it while still in Toronto.
I actually recorded the song for an [independent] Canadian company called Arc Records, which is long gone now, but they were horrified. This sounds like jazz. Jazz doesn’t sell. We can’t make any money off of jazz.’ They basically ripped up my contract and rejected the record, so I stuck it back in my guitar case and carried it around with me for the next two years.
When I joined Blood, Sweat & Tears, I played it for them and because they were all jazz musicians they related to it immediately. They basically took the demo from Canada and wrote horns to it.
Then, yet another 2 months later, they followed up with the last of their number 2 singles “And When I Die”. The song was written by songwriter Laura Nyro and was first recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary in 1966. Nyro released her own version on her debut album “More Than a New Discovery” in February 1967.
Blood, Sweat & Tears released 15 other singles, 7 of which where in the Top 100, but no other in the Top 10. They released 11 studio albums (containing 3 number 1, and 3 Gold status), several “Live” albums and a few “Compilations”.
The band using the name Blood, Sweat & Tears has had many, many personnel changes over the years. At last count, the overall number of BS&T members since the beginning is up around 165 total people. None of those iterations ever had the success of the David Clayton-Thomas version when he left in early January 1972 to pursue a solo career. There is still some version of a band under that name still currently touring.