“Smiling Faces Sometimes” (1971) Part 1 of 2

September 17, 2007


Composers: Norman Whitfield & Barrett Strong

This song made the Undisputed Truth a household name when it went to #3 in 1971. But the group really didn’t have any bigger hits and disbanded in 1981. Norman Whitfield, who co-wrote the song with Barrett Strong, used the “Truth” as a vehicle to his psychedelic productions and experimentations, but his other guinea pigs – The Temptations – were better at doing his music. The Tempts version appears on their classic album “The Sky’s the Limit”. I absolutely LOVE this album and can’t understand why it was and still is so under-rated today. The classic “Just My Imagination” is on this lp, which is Eddie Kendrick’s last Temptations outing, but you never hear any of the other tracks on radio today. I guess the songs aren’t short enough for today’s fast-paced radio. I will save my discussion of this lp and the mighty mighty HOF Temptations for another post, another day.

Here is the Undisputed Truth’s version of “Smiling Faces Sometimes”:


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Undisputed Truth – Smiling Faces Sometimes (1971)

And here is the Temptations’ version:

The Temptations

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The Temptations – Smiling Faces Sometimes (1971)

Poll: Which group performed “Smiling Faces” better?

Thanks for reading and voting. Now you can move on to part two (1/1/09) to see what other Motown Artists covered “Smiling Faces Sometimes”  here.

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Filed under:Barrett Strong,Motown Covers Motown,Motown/Gordy,Norman Whitfield,R&B/Psychedelic Soul,Seventies,Smiling Faces Sometimes,The Temptations,The Undisputed Truth

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris January 24, 2008 at 6:03 am

The song Smiling Faces was also recorded later in the 70′s by another artist. Do you know who perhaps? I have been looking everywhere without success. The intro starts with a bass guitar!
Thank you,


2 sondan January 24, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Hi Chris,

I am only familiar with these two classic vocal versions. But jazz flautist Barbara Ann (“Bobbi”) Humphrey recorded the song in the seventies! Could that be what you are looking for?
Let me know! And thanks for visiting by blog.


3 themusicologist February 1, 2008 at 8:56 am

another great song..



4 sondan February 1, 2008 at 2:25 pm


Whitfield & Strong *did* write a masterpiece in “Smiling Faces” didn’t they? I’m curious … which version do you prefer – The UT’s or the Tempts?


5 edmundo February 2, 2008 at 7:25 pm

Why haven’t you posted the version performed by The Dramatics?


6 sondan February 2, 2008 at 8:14 pm

Hi Edmundo,

I thought a while about whether or not I should reply to you in public or private and finally decided that I would give you a public reply that might benefit others.

To my knowledge the Dramatics never recorded “Smiling Faces, Sometimes” for public consumption. For the life of me I could not figure out where you would get such a notion from so I did a “google” on the internet and found that The Undisputed Truth version is listed on Imeen as being sung by the Dramatics.

If you listen to the UT version here, you will see it is the same version on Imeen labeled as being sung by the Dramataics.

Nobody is perfect so to confirm I have checked both ASCAP and BMI and found that the song was never licenced to Dramatics, The Dramatics, or Dramatics, The.

Also you may check here for yourself (http://nasastyle.com/dramatics/disco.htm) and see that it does not appear on any of the albums in The Dramatics Discography.

You may also check Amazon to see that the song does NOT appear of the album that the Imeen poster says it does.

Finally, I decided to respond to you in public so that others would know that a lot of music online is mislabled and misrepresented. I suppose Imeen is the 21st century version of Kazaa and Limewire and other P2P music sharing sites that have a wealth of mislabeled music.

I want my readers to know that I will always strive for accuracy here and if there is something I don’t know or am not sure about I will say so.

In the meantime enjoy the music.

Peace and love.



7 sondan June 6, 2008 at 11:05 pm

Hi Musicologist – I somehow overlooked responding to your post and I apologize profusely.

I can tell you I prefer the Tempts version of “Smiling Faces” or the Truth’s version. But heck, I am very biased since I love, love, love the HOF5 Tempts. I think they were the best blend of male voices ever! When Eddie Kendrick left the group I literally cried and the group was never the same again (IMHO).

But I will admit that the Temptations’ “A Song For You” was a classic LP that was put out without Sweet Ed.

Keep Oldies Alive!



8 drew March 30, 2011 at 2:09 pm

I like Undisputed truth version better..it have a clean and funky beat, also its no as long. but when this group recorded this song, they got more recognition than the temptations when they recorded it.


9 SonDan March 30, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Hi Drew. The UT’s “Smiling Faces” is probably the best know since Whitfield really was pushing his group (and his music out there). I Think since Eddie Kendricks had left the Temptations by the this LP (containing “SF”) was released Motown didn’t seem to push it too hard. Frankly I think the LP is one of the lesser known by the Classic Temptations — even among the die hard fans. Too bad because “Sky’s The Limit” is an awesome set IMHO.

Thanks for weighing in on this Drew. Hope to see you around OSML often.


10 Andy June 9, 2008 at 8:12 pm

Here’s an odd coincidence:

“Smiling Faces Sometimes” was originally recorded by the Temptations but the Undisputed Truth had the hit version.
“Papa Was A Rolling Stone” was originally recorded by the Undisputed Truth but the Temptations had the hit version.

Cool, huh?


11 sondan June 10, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Yep – Synchronicity Andy –
Things that make you go hmmm.
Thanks for visiting and thanks for the trivia.


12 peacefulone July 7, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Hi Sondan! I’m sitting here now having a jam fest! lol. Old memories have resurfaced. This song takes me way back. This song gave me wisdom on cutting loose from friendships that were destined to be a detriment.

Translation: I had a lot of smiling faces around me back in the day. Old memories. These songs nowadays don’t impart wisdom like this anymore…or is it me? Gotta go sleep. Love E


13 sondan July 8, 2008 at 12:56 pm

You are absolutely, positively spot on about the older songs imparting wisdom E. The lyrics always were about love and life experiences — not like the songs today that are about nothing but a beat and some groans.

The song lyrics were mostly written by young artists about their lives: they wrote about what they knew and aspired to be. I think that is why we listeners related to the songs so much.

I recall in a rare interview Eddie Kendrick, of Temptations fame, said when asked about Gospel music that all of The Temptations songs were about the Gospel — just insert God in place of the girl and there you have it.

Now I am paraphrasing the heck out of the statement but you get the gist of it. When I find the exact quote I will post it here since I keep everything and know I have it stored someplace on my pc.




14 AdR July 17, 2008 at 10:51 am

Chris might be referring – though I hope it is not true – to the Rare Earth (who will not be featured in the revolution,as Gil Scott-Heron aptly raps).
But they did it too.
Or does he/she meant David Ruffin? That is truly another really great version!


15 sondan July 17, 2008 at 2:19 pm

Hi AdR,

Welcome to OSML!

OMG! I cannot imagine Rare Earth singing this song but of course it makes sense that Gordy would have the group sing all of the songs he owned the publishing rights to that he possible could. I have never heard their version and would be interested in hearing it. Can you point me to it?

Well we know David Ruffin can sing anything but I was concentrating on comparing “groups” here. David was the man!

Thanks so much for your input and please do keep me in mind if you come across the Rare Earth version of SF. They are not particularly on my list of faves so I don’t own any of their music. But I did enjoy them recently on one of those PBS “Oldies” special. The lead singer still had his chops.

Hope you stop by again soon. Please don’t be a stranger.



16 brenda v cleaver July 30, 2008 at 12:09 am

as much as I love the tempts, undisputed truth, hands down.


17 Sharla September 11, 2008 at 9:12 pm

well , one more recording for your ear
the late Issac Hayes and Joan Osborne recording this song also
it is on Her How sweet it is CD

and i love undisputed truth version !!!!


18 sondan September 12, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Hi Sharla,

I heard Joan Osboure’s version during the Funk Brothers Tour/Movie. It was ok but I do not recall ever hearing Isaac Hayes’ version. I will look out for that one this weekend. I am curious to know how he handles it with his deep baritone in a “Stax” style of music instead of “the Motown Sound”!. R.I.P. Mr. Hayes. We really miss you.

I love both of these Motown versions and can’t really decide my favorite. UD’s version is great and loved by all — but I am a die-hard Eddie Kendrick fan and he can sing no wrong in my eyes.(LOL) Dear Sweet “Cornbread may he R.I.P.

Have a great weekend lady! I missed seeing you around here. Hope all is well with you.


19 Byron Coleman September 17, 2008 at 8:18 pm

Our prayers and sympathy go to the Whitfield family. I listened to much of the work Norman Whitfield worked on with the Temptations, including “Masterpeice” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone while in high school and college in New Orleans. God bless Norman Whitfield!

By the way, I like the Undisputed Truth’s version, but I loved The Temptations’ twelve minutes and forty seconds of legendary sounds of orchestra and vocals.

Keep up the good work on the site!



Hi Byron,

Thanks so much for your participation and kind words. I appreciate your visit and glad you are enjoying it here. I do apologize to the delay in responding. Sometimes an email will get “lost in the shuffle” and overlooked until it is “inbox clean-up time”.

Please keep coming around to enjoy the oldies with me.




20 Mattijs Mooimuziek September 18, 2008 at 3:50 am

This was a tough choice. I think in the end the UT version wins. However, I must say I definitely like the Tempts version as well. Here you can hear how Norman Whitfield experimented with sounds and effect starting in the early seventies. Listen to the guitar sounds during the intro. Sounds pretty cool! And listen tot the sound effect at 00:09:09 and at 00:11:55 all through the end. Combined with the driving rhythm it makes for some compelling listening. If this isn’t psychedelic soul, then tell me what is!

I was actually looking for information about Whitfield to write an obituary on my blog (which unfortunately is in Dutch, by the way).
I’m not quite old enough to remember this song, but I’m glad I ran into these great versions, which they both are!

Kind regards,


21 sondan September 18, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Hi Mattijs,

Glad you found me so you could listen to and be reminded of Mr.Whitfield’s wonderful talent. In your obit you should call him the “Godfather of Psychedelic Soul”. I think Shuggie Otis invented it, Sly Stone took it in a different direction to the masses but Whitfield perfected it! Hmm, on second thought maybe I should get a copyright on the phrase myself since I just made it up on the spur (LOL)!

Since I can’t read Dutch would you be so kind as to share with me an English translation of your finished product? I would love to read it.

And thanks for directing me to some specifics of Whitfield’s genius. When I get home from work I will have to give a concentrated listen to both “SF” versions giving special attention to the markers you have provided.

Please don’t be a stranger here.



22 Apu September 21, 2008 at 10:49 pm

Perhaps it was Charles Brown?


23 soulmusic247 September 28, 2008 at 6:20 am

Before I post I must say that I absolutely love this site. BRAVO!! for keeping the oldies alive. Now I must say that I love The Tempts, but I would be proven a liar if I were to say that I like their version over Undisputed Truth. Undisputed Truth version stays with me simply because of the vocal range Joe Harris sings in. Now don’t get me wrong I love Eddie’s High Tenor/Falsetto voice, but I always thought that Dennis would have done a better job singing lead on this track. Dennis has a very powerful voice and this song needed a powerful voice for the lyrics alone. However The Tempts timid Music suited the song better in my opinion. Overall both groups brought out the song in their own way, and both groups were clearly awarded in the end.


24 Klarc September 29, 2008 at 9:46 pm


Thank you for posting a compelling side by side comparison of this great song. I was sold on The Undisputed Truth’s version, as the Tempts version starts awfully slow. However, the slow build of tempo and instrumental complexity by the Tempts is absolutely riveting as it develops. Much like Papa was a Rolling Stone…This is a Norman Whitfield masterpiece. Now if you could find ‘I’m Alive’ by Johnny Thunder…


25 sondan October 1, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Hi Klarc,

You are certainly welcomed for this post. And you are right that the Tempts version is a Norman Whitfield Classic (R.I.P). I have read over and over that the Tempts didn’t like doing the “Psychedelic stuff” and wanted to remains singing love songs, but I must admit that they sure did a bang up job at something they didn’t like. Guess that goes to show you what true professionals they were.

I don’t have “I’m Alive” but I will certainly look for it for you.

Hope to see and hear more from you. I appreciated your visit.


26 sondan October 2, 2008 at 11:27 pm

Dear soulmusic247.

I sincerely thank you for your complement and am very glad you share my love of oldies as evidenced by you “keeping the oldies of Marvin Gaye alive” at you forum. (LOL) Looks like a great project you have there and I plan to spend some time reading around this weekend.

Now as for “SF”, your comments are duly noted because BOTH versions hold a special place in my heart as well — but Sweet Eddie’s tenor give the Tempts version the edge for me.

I think that a later Temptations’ version with Dennis on lead would probably have sounded much like the Truth’s version. Whitfield knew just what he was doing — and I think that was trying out the same song different ways with different artists and seeing what stuck! The Motown stable of artists was so remarkably talented that everything always worked IMHO.

Hope to chat back at ‘cha soon, both here and at your Marvin Gaye forum. Please don’t be a stranger here.



27 Dave October 23, 2008 at 8:36 pm

The Tempts version is the best I love the extended version and the Bass Line which is classic James Jamerson The undisputed truth version is Bob Babbit.Also for the person that wanted to know The other artist that did Smiling Faces was none other than the Great David Ruffin. Thanks for the posting!!!!!


28 sondan October 25, 2008 at 11:08 pm

Yippee — someone else who favors the Temps version.
Thanks for checking in with your favorite Dave and welcome to OSML.

Also thanks for commenting that the other Motown artist who covered “SF” was David Ruffin. I listened to his version and did not like it at all: he sort of ignored the entire melody. I don’t recall ever hearing it before but if I did I probaly dismissed in because it was so awful.

I will update this post to include Ruffin’s version in this Motown thread in the next few days.

Thanks again for you input and help. See you soon. ;-)


29 sondan October 25, 2008 at 11:10 pm

Yippee — someone else who favors the Temps version.
Thanks for checking in with your favorite Dave and welcome to OSML.

Also thanks for commenting that the other Motown artist who covered “SF” was David Ruffin. I listened to his version and did not like it at all: he sort of ignored the entire melody. I don’t recall ever hearing it before but if I did I probaly dismissed in because it was so awful.

I will update this post to include Ruffin’s version in this Motown thread in the next few days.

Thanks again for you input and help. See you soon. ;-)


30 Darlene May 31, 2010 at 4:16 pm

RIP Ollie Woodson of the Temptations! You will be missed as well!


31 SonDan May 31, 2010 at 6:30 pm

OMG. I appreciate you sharing this sad news Darlene.
Wish we had met under better circumstances.


32 Willis June 24, 2010 at 12:35 am

I may not be as old school as the rest of you all but when this came out I was 9 years old and it is still one of my most favorite songs ever recorded in this world. Thanks for all the schooling.


33 SonDan June 24, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Hi Willis,
Of course there had to be something about the Oldies that would grab you cause it is the best of all time! (LOL)
Seriously, hope you stick around and get introduced to a few more classic musical gems you might learn to love.
Thanks for you participation. It is most appreciated kind sir.


34 j. reeves July 14, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Nice guitars!wow! this is the most imformative site I have found so far, I’m really glad I found this site!


35 SonDan July 27, 2010 at 9:10 pm

I am glad you found me too j reeves and extremely appreciate of your visit and kind words. That Norman Whitfield was a helluva musical arranger — wasn’t he. Hope to see lots more of you here at OSML. And do tell your friends that love oldies to stop on by. ;-)


36 Bryan October 1, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Thanks Sondan that David Ruffin cover is incredible


37 SonDan October 3, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Hi Bryan,

Welcome to OSML. And you are most welcomed. I just got back from a week at a convention out of town and forgot my netbook, so I apologize for the delay in responding to your post. Please forgive me. :-(

David’s cover is great — isn’t it? Ruff had an incredible voice and is sorely overlooked and under-rated in Pop R&B music history IMHO.

What do you think?

Don’t be a stranger and thanks so much for your participation.


38 Judge Burdon June 4, 2011 at 1:51 am

With me it seems to be all about the memory the song brings to life. As far as the music it is all great not the digital overdubbed crap and machine generated instruments we hear in music today! Some of this is all first take stuff ..live and die by your talent. That is what makes these older recordings full of life.. the feel it’s all about the feel.


39 SonDan June 5, 2011 at 11:09 pm

I couldn’t have summed it up better myself Judge! It is about the feel and it was transmitted to that vinyl and then went right from the grooves of the vinyl into our hearts, minds and souls.


40 Judge Burdon June 4, 2011 at 1:55 am

post script.. I was also devestated when Eddie left..they never were the same but what they became was also just as incredible!!!!


41 SonDan June 5, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Judge you are in my head aren’t you? (LOL) Eddie was the man. Check out the first part of my tribute to Eddie via the link in the menu below the header. Hope you enjoy the music I have selected to represent Sweet Eddie. Your participation is most appreciated.


42 gorazd June 8, 2009 at 6:42 am

The name of the band is ‘Rare Earth’. It’s the first version I’ve heard, lots of years ago, though it’s a remake.


43 sondan June 8, 2009 at 11:08 am

Yes, I am aware of that now. The Rare Earth version can be found along with the David Ruffin cover, right here at OSML here under my post “Smiling Faces Part 2 of 2.” Give them both a listen and vote for your favorite gorazd. http://oldschoolmusiclover.wordpress.com/2009/01/01/smiling-faces-sometimes-1973-1974/


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