Games People Play (Joe South song)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

"Games People Play" is a song written, composed and performed by singer/song-writer Joe South.

Origins & inspirations

The lyrics and title are thought to be a direct reference to Dr. Eric Berne's masterpiece on transactional analysis of the same name. The book which was released in 1964, deals with the "games" human beings play in interacting with one another

The song closely resembles an older song, the traditional Cajun "'Tit Galop Pour Mamou", which was played by the Balfa Brothers among others, and is on the Balfas' Play Traditional Cajun Music. After South's hit got around, Nathan Abshire (accordionist with the Balfas and others), recorded a version in French, with singing by Don Guillory, on his album A Cajun Legend. A new Cajun version, introduced by a partial recounting of the genealogy of the versions, is at [1] under the heading Robert Jardell.


In 1968, the song was released on South's debut album Introspect. It was also featured as the title of his second album, Games People Play in 1969, and reached #12 in the US. It won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1970. The distinctive guitar at the opening is played on a Danelectro Guitar Sitar, which South also can be heard playing in the opening bars of the mega-hit Chain of Fools by Aretha Franklin. Concurrent with South's version of the song on the pop charts, Freddy Weller, guitarist for Paul Revere and the Raiders, released a country version of the song in 1969 as his debut single on the country charts and reached #2 with it. 'Games People Play' is a protest song. The lyrics protest against various forms of hate, inhumanity and intolerance--both interpersonal and social.

Cover versions

The song has been covered by Della Reese, Petula Clark, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tesla, King Curtis and Duane Allman, The Georgia Satellites, Big Tom and The Mainliners, Dolly Parton, The Tremeloes, Johnny Johnson & the Bandwagon, Ike and Tina Turner, Dreadzone, Hank Williams Jr., YOYO, Inner Circle, DJ Bobo as well as others. It was also mentioned in the Brian Wilson song "Games Two Can Play" from his unreleased album Adult Child. In Singapore circa 1969, an instrumental version showed-up on a single by The White Crane Orchestra. The reggae band Inner Circle also released a cover version which was quite popular in Europe for a while in the mid-90s. In 2006, it was covered by Jools Holland on his album Moving Out to the Country with guest vocalist Marc Almond. The Scottish singer, Dick Gaughan, covered it on his album A Different Kind of Love Song.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Games People Play (Joe South song)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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