TRACK OF THE WEEK
DAY & DATE: Climbs into the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending Saturday, November 4, 1967.
PRODUCER: Berry Gordy.
BACKSTORY: For Brenda Holloway, the songwriter, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” was her biggest hit – and almost certainly produced a better financial return over the years than any of her recordings as a singer. In part, that was thanks to a highly successful remake by Blood, Sweat & Tears (more on that below).
The song was born of love – or, rejected love, to be correct. “My boyfriend had quit me,” Brenda explained in the liner notes for The Complete Motown Singles Volume 7: 1967. “I thought, ‘You know what, I’m gonna write a song about being happy, ’cause this man is crazy. Leaving me? I’ll show him.’” The singer’s determination to recover from being dumped led her to place a call to Berry Gordy, who tapped Frank Wilson, a key member of Motown’s West Coast creative team. Wilson had worked with Holloway before, writing her two previous hits, “Together ’Til The End Of Time” and (with R. Dean Taylor) “Just Look What You’ve Done.” (For more Holloway biographical information, read here.)
“Frank wrote the whole part of the bridge which turns into the jazzier section as done by Blood, Sweat & Tears,” Brenda recalled in another interview. “That was his baby because I got writer’s block there. Patrice and I had written the verse, then I had done “You’ve made me so very happy, I’m so glad you came into my life,” but then it stopped. That’s where Frank came in. I wrote it to be like Blood, Sweat & Tears recorded it, but Berry insisted it be done the way my version came out.” Then again, he was the producer – and owned the company.
“You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” was released on the Tamla label in the summer of ’67, and made its chart debut in September. At its peak, it was one of seven Motown singles on the Billboard Hot 100, so may have suffered in terms of promotion; it was Brenda’s last hit single, and her last release for the record company. She departed in early 1968. “Of course I should have stayed,” she told In The Basement magazine many years later. “I could kill myself for walking out, I was so stupid. Just write: ‘Brenda Holloway was confused!’”
REMAKES: As mentioned, it was Blood, Sweat & Tears’ fresh take on “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” which gave the song – and the Holloway sisters’ royalty accounts – an uplift. It came from the horn-based rock band’s second album, which topped the Billboard charts in the spring of ’69. The single spent three weeks at No. 2 in April, behind “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” by the 5th Dimension – a group Motown had turned down several years earlier. The Blood, Sweat & Tears 45 was certified gold for a million sales, while their LP took the Album of the Year Grammy© award. Yet they were far from the only performers drawn to the song. Since 1969, it has been recorded by more than 50 others, including Bobbie Gentry, Nancy Wilson, Shirley Bassey and Gloria Estefan. Several Motown singers cut “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” too, including Edwin Starr & Blinky, Chris Clark and the Miracles. Brenda herself took a second spin with it while signed to British music man Ian Levine’s Motorcity label in the early 1990s. Evidently, she was happy more than once.
FOOTNOTE: Brenda’s younger sister Patrice had stories of her own. She was also signed to Motown, and the Frank Wilson-penned “Stevie” came out – but barely – as a single in December 1963. Patrice cut a few other sides for the company in Los Angeles, eventually moving on to Capitol Records. There, she and Brenda sang behind Lou Rawls’ version of “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” while Patrice had a number of other, well-regarded tracks released as 45s. Even more lucrative was her spell as a member of Josie & the Pussycats, characters in a popular TV cartoon series of that name. Sadly, Patrice Holloway died in 2006 while in her mid-fifties; Berry Gordy was among those at the funeral.