Smiling Faces Sometimes  

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

"Smiling Faces Sometimes" is a soul song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for the Motown label. The song was originally recorded by The Temptations in 1971. Producer Norman Whitfield had the song re-recorded by The Undisputed Truth the same year, resulting in a number-three Billboard Hot 100 position for the group. "Smiling Faces" was the only Top 40 single released by the Undisputed Truth, and was included on their debut album The Undisputed Truth.



Both versions of "Smiling Faces Sometimes" deal with the same subject matter, "back-stabbing" friends who do their friends wrong behind their backs ("Smiling faces sometimes...they don't tell the truth...smiling faces sometimes tell lies"), but in different ways. The Temptations' original uses an arrangement similar to a haunted house film score to represent feelings of fear and timidness. Included on the 1971 Sky's the Limit album, "Smiling Faces Sometimes" runs over 12 minutes, most of which is comprised of extended instrumental passages without any vocals. An edited version was planned as the Temptations' summer 1971 single release, but this plan was dropped when Eddie Kendricks, frustrated by personnel problems within the group, quit The Temptations and signed a solo deal with Motown in March 1971.

Whitfield who was known for recording dramatically different versions of the same song with different Motown artists. Hated including Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (re-recorded as hit records for Gladys Knight & the Pips, and Marvin Gaye) and The Temptations' "War" (re-recorded as a hit for Edwin Starr). After Kendricks left The Temptations, an undaunted Whitfield re-recorded the song with his latest protégés, psychedelic trio Undisputed Truth. It has since been covered by Bobbi Humphrey, Joan Osbourne, Rare Earth, and others.

Future Undisputed Truth singles would never make it higher than #63, a position attained by both 1972's "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" and 1974's "Help Yourself". Ironically, "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" was re-recorded by The Temptations shortly after its release, and the re-recorded version became not only a #1 pop hit, but a three-time Grammy Award winner as well.

The song was referenced in The O'Jays' similarly-themed 1972 hit "Back Stabbers".

Whitfield later revisited the song for the 1973 album "Ma", recorded by Motown's white rock band, Rare Earth, which he produced and wrote.


Undisputed Truth version

  • Lead and background vocals by Joe Harris, Billie Rae Calvin, and Brenda Joyce

Temptations version

Joan Osborne version

Released on her 2002 album How Sweet It Is with Isaac Hayes

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Smiling Faces Sometimes" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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