Jerry Butler: Never Gonna Give You Up
From The Iceman Cometh (Mercury, 1968).

Thee Midniters: Never Gonna Give You Up
On 7″ (Whittier, 1968). Also on Thee Complete Midniters.

Eddie Floyd: Never Give You Up
From I’ve Never Found a Girl (Stax, 1968). Also on Rare Stamps.

Shirley and the Shirelles: Never Give You Up (Never Gonna Give You Up)
From 7″ (Bell, 1969)

Lyn Collins: Never Gonna Give You Up
From Think (About It) (People, 1972). Also on Mama Feelgood.

The Black Keys: Never Gonna Give You Up
From Brothers (Nonesuch, 2010)

I’m probably rehashing something I’ve written before but while Jerry Butler was never my favorite of the major ’60s soul kings, I gotta give it up to “Never Gonna Give You Up.” This collaboration between Butler and legendary Philly producers Gamble and Huff yielded one of my favorite R&B classics of that era, armed with an one of the most memorable four bar intros that comes to mind. I realized recently that I’ve posted a few different covers of this song in the past, including the Midniters’ version above, but it never occurred to devote an entire post to the composition.

Butler’s original is perfect – I don’t think you can improve on it. But you can style on it in some great ways. Thee Midniters approach is – true to the East L.A. group – hella garage-y, especially with ride cymbal rumbling around over the intro. Definitely lo-fi but hardly lo-quality.

Eddie Floyd’s version takes some interesting liberties with that intro, giving it a subtle Southern soul makeover through its distinct guitar, subtle horn backgrounds and that stamping hi-hat. In contrast, Shirley and the Shirelles’ version does away with that distinctive intro altogether (an interesting, one might even say, bold, choice) but overall, I thought the arrangement was great, especially having Shirley and her Shirelles singing over it. Probably my favorite cover of the song but alas, a 7″ only tune.

On the female tip, Lyn Collins also took a swing at the tune a few years later. The intro is here, albeit on flute, and the song has a weird energy to it – it’s more mellow than the original, except when Collins is belting her lungs out over it and much as I love the Female Preacher, I find her version out of balance; it’s not one of the best songs off an otherwise classic album.

Lastly, we go quite current with Akron’s Black Keys and their cover of the song from last summer’s Brothers which, I must say, I like quite a bit; late pass on giving them much deserved props. I was genuinely (and quite pleasantly) surprised at how much I liked their cover. Despite its heavy, fuzzed out psych influences, the song opens with a similar kind of shimmering lightness that Butler’s original offered. I wouldn’t have thought the song would work in the mix of tunes on Brothers but it actually sounds perfect in that mix alongside tracks like “The Go Getter” and “Unknown Brother.”



11 comments to NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP

  • Anonymous

    never heard the eddie floyd before. great version.

  • LA

    Thee Midniters are so great, thank you so much. Have you heard their song ” I Found A Peanut”? I have been looking for it everywhere.

  • thedouglasg

    i got to say, the Black Moses cover puts them all to shame.


    Funny, i recently played these “version excursions” – bar thee midniters – on my small radio show in hamburg. But Jerry is one of the greatest! So please check “Lost” and “Just because i really love you” (used by Dilla, on the great “Ms. Fat Booty” Remix and the recent Nottz 45 – where Mayer-Hawthorne sings the hook)……

  • OW

    I’m familiar with Butler’s catalog; I just don’t happen to like it that much. I never really dug his sound besides a handful of songs. 

  • Jeff

    Another good version is by Bonnie Bramlett on “Lady’s Choice” from 1976. A duet with Dobie Gray. Better than it sounds.

  • Anonymous

    Word, me neither. But I always dug his “Never Gonna give You Up” I guess cause of the Diamond D sample.   
    Great idea for a compilation type post, thanks!
    –verge (tibbs)

  • Anonymous

    hey ma, you forgot Brother Ike! His version is deeeep 🙂

  • John

    Such posts are the reason why I like this blog.

  • I think the best cover is by Michael Henderson. It was recorded in 1981 for the album Slingshot.
    Another recording of this song, it was in 1983 by Larry Harris. It is rare and it was released on Small Axe Records.

  • Robert Perlman

    Pretty good cover by this soul/rock band

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