Angel of the Morning original

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Angel of the Morning original & two hit covers

In 1967, songwriter Chip Taylor wrote “Angel of the Morning”. The song was about premarital sex, a topic mainstream media at the time still considered as taboo. “Angel of the Morning” earned American singer Merrilee Rush a Grammy nomination in 1968. Country rock singer Juice Newton released the most successful version in 1981. She also received a Grammy nomination for the song in the same category as Rush. However, Brooklyn-born Evie Sands released the “Angel of the Morning” original back in 1967.

Writing Angel of the Morning

Taylor, who also wrote “Wild Thing“, wrote “Angel of the Morning” in 20 minutes. There are more similarities between the garage rock hit and this ballad than you might think.

I heard some guy playing ‘Wild Thing’ real slow on a guitar. It sounded nice. So I did the same, lifting one of my fingers off a chord to create a suspension. Then the words ‘There’ll be no strings to bind your hands, not if my love can’t bind your heart’ came out. It was as beautiful a love connection as I could ever feel.”

Chip Taylor, Mojo magazine, 2008

If you listen to the introduction of “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning”, you’ll hear it too. “Angel of the Morning” just has a slower tempo and more sweeping strings.

There is something mystical and mesmerising about “Angel of the Morning” and the way Taylor wrote the song.

In his own mind, he feels that he didn’t so much as WRITE this song as that he DREAMED it… the way the lyrics flowed out, meshing perfectly with the series of chords he had been strumming – there just had to be some kind of divine intervention.”

Kent Kotal, Forgotten Hits

The Stones also influenced “Angel of the Morning”.

I wrote ‘Angel of the Morning’ after hearing the Rolling Stones song ‘Ruby Tuesday’ on the car radio when I was driving into New York City. I wanted to capture that kind of passion.”

Chip Taylor

Evis Sands & the Angel of the Morning original

Taylor offered the “Angel of the Morning” original to Connie Francis. However, she turned it down as she thought the love affair theme too risqué for her image. It was therefore Sands who recorded the “Angel of the Morning” original.

Sands was born in 1946 in Brooklyn, New York. The daughter of a singer, she grew up listening to artists like Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Frank Sinatra, Jackie Wilson, Little Willie John and the Beatles.

Sands started her music career as a teenager and achieved some chart success in the late 60s, although she never really hit it big. In 1979 she retired from singing to concentrate on writing and production. In the early 1990s, Sands enjoyed a rise in cult popularity in the UK, prompting her to return to live performing in 1998. Sands’ music writing and performing career spans 50 years.

Success & failure of the Angel of the Morning original

Taylor produced Sands’ 1967 recording of the “Angel of the Morning” original. Unfortunately Sands’ label Cameo-Parkway Records went bust, which severely limited the single release and promotion of “Angel of the Morning”.

Despite this, the “Angel of the Morning” original was highly requested on the radio and the initial 10,000 pressings sold out. Taylor was devastated that the song wasn’t more successful, but a year later, the then-unknown Rush released a top-10 hit version.

You can hear all that Taylor dreamed about in the “Angel of the Morning” original. To me, this version has a gentle folk sound.

Merrilee Rush

Rush was born Merrilee Gunst in Seattle, Washington in 1944. She studied classical piano as a child and in 1960 became the singer for the Amazing Aztecs, a Seattle rock ‘n’ roll band led by Rush’s future husband, saxophonist Neil Rush. In 1965, the couple formed Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts, who quickly became a popular act on the Pacific Northwest’s teen dancehall circuit.

The Turnabouts went to Memphis as the opening act on a Paul Revere and the Raiders tour. There they met record producer Chips Moman who, with Tommy Cogbill, produced Rush’s version of “Angel of the Morning” at the American Sound Studios in Memphis in early 1968. They used the same musicians who played on Elvis Presley’s Memphis recordings.

Rush’s “Angel of the Morning” came out as a single in early 1968. It peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 and went to number one in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The song earned Rush a Grammy nomination for Best Female Contemporary-Pop Vocal Performance, losing to Dionne Warwick’s “Do You Know the Way to San Jose”.

Like Sands’ “Angel of the Morning” original, Rush’s version has a folk sound to it. Her voice is rich and beautiful, and I think this is my favourite of all versions.

Rush’s “Angel of the Morning” featured on the soundtrack of the 1999 film Girl, Interrupted, starring composer Taylor’s niece Angelina Jolie. The song also appeared in the movies Jerry Maguire and Fingers. In 1977, Rush recorded a new version of “Angel of the Morning” for her self-titled album.

Juice Newton

Judy Kay “Juice” Newton was born in New Jersey in 1952. Her mother encouraged her interest in music and gave her a guitar. After high school, Newton played folk music in various local coffeehouses while attending Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California. She then formed a folk-rock band with guitarist and songwriter Otha Young.

Newton’s “Angel of the Morning” was the highest-charting and bestselling version of the song. It was recorded in 1980 and released in 1981 as part of her album Juice. Newton re-interpreted the song with a pop focus following the suggestion of Steve Meyer, who promoted Capitol Records singles and albums to radio stations. He said that a version of “Angel of the Morning” by Newton would be a strong candidate for airplay.

The song did well, selling over a million copies in the US. It reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100, 22 on the Billboard Country Music Chart, and number one on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart in 1981. The accompanying video clip, which aired on the day the network launched in 1981, was the first country music video ever played on MTV.

Newton earned a Grammy nomination for “Angel of the Morning” in the same category as Rush’s nomination.

Newton’s success

Newton went on to record six number one singles and several Gold and Platinum albums, including Juice, Quiet Lies and her first Greatest Hits album. Three top-ten hits came out of Juice – “Angel of the Morning”, “Queen of Hearts” and “The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known)”. Newton achieved crossover success in the 1980s, charting in Billboard Country, Adult Contemporary and Billboard Hot 100 charts.

She received five Grammy Award nominations in the Pop and Country Best Female Vocalist categories. Today, Newton continues to work in the music business and is also a horse trader.

Newton’s “Angel of the Morning” is a mix of pop and country. You can tell why she was so successful in multiple genres. Her voice is sweet but rich. It’s also interesting to hear the song move away from that late 60s folk sound.

Like Rush, Newton also re-recorded “Angel of the Morning” for her 1998 album The Trouble with Angels.

There are several other versions of “Angel of the Morning”, including:

Other versions

  • Billie Davis (1967) – recorded for Lee Hazlewood’s LHI label, with PP Arnold providing backup vocals
  • PP Arnold (1968) – her own version after providing backups for Davis
  • Joya Landis (1968) – a cool reggae version
  • Connie Eaton (1970)
  • Mary Mason (1977)
  • Guys ‘n’ Dolls (1977)
  • Melba Montgomery (1978)

In 2001, Shaggy’s “Angel” featuring Rayvon, which heavily samples the melody of “Angel of the Morning”, went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

References
AllMusic - Angel of the Morning
Songfacts - Angel of the Morning
Wikipedia - Angel of the Morning
Wikipedia - Evie Sands
Wikipedia - Juice Newton
Wikipedia - Merrilee Rush
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