“It’s a Shame”
is a song co-written by Stevie Wonder, Syreeta Wright and Lee Garrett and produced by Wonder as a single for The Spinners on Motown’s V.I.P. Records label. The single became the Detroit-reared group’s biggest single on the Motown Records company since they had signed with the company in 1964 and also their biggest hit in a decade.
The lineup of the Spinners include original members Pervis Jackson, Henry Fambrough, Billy Henderson and Bobby Smith and lead vocalist G.C. Cameron. The quintet recorded the single in 1970.
The song, which is about a man who complains about a lover’s “messin’ around” on him, became a huge hit for the group reaching number-fourteen on the Billboard Hot 100 and number-three on the R&B singles chart, making it their biggest hit to date. The song was the first song Wonder produced for another act by himself.
Two years later, the group would leave Motown for a contract with Atlantic Records on the advice of fellow Detroit native Aretha Franklin, also an artist on that label. Cameron, who was having an affair with Gwen Gordy (sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy) decided to stay in Motown and the group hired Cameron’s cousin Philippé Wynne to replace him. Later, Cameron moved with the Gordys to Los Angeles, and stayed with Motown for over a decade.
Early recording years: 1961–71
The Spinners first hit the charts in August 1961 on Harvey Fuqua’s Tri-Phi Records, with “That’s What Girls Are Made For”, peaking at number 27. Bobby Smith sang lead vocal on this track, coached by Fuqua. (Some sources report Fuqua sang lead vocal on this track, but both Smith and Fuqua have stated at various times that it was Smith.) The group’s follow-up, “Love (I’m So Glad) I Found You”, also featured lead vocals by Smith, although again some sources credit Fuqua. This track reached number 91 that November, but none of their other Tri-Phi singles charted.
The extent to which Fuqua became a member of the group during their stay at Tri-Phi is debated. Fuqua apparently sang on at least some of the records, and at minimum considered himself a Spinner, as made explicit by the credits on Tri-Phi 1010 and 1024—the artist credit on both these 1962 singles reads “Harvey (Formerly of the Moonglows and the Spinners)”. However most sources,[clarification needed] while respecting Fuqua’s contributions to the group, do not list him as an official member.
James Edwards’ brother, Edgar “Chico” Edwards, replaced Dixon in the group in 1963, at which time Tri-Phi and the entire artist roster was bought out by Fuqua’s brother-in-law Berry Gordy of Motown Records. The Spinners were then assigned to the Motown label.
In 1964, the Spinners made their debut at the Apollo Theater and won instant acclaim, a rare feat at the time. But with the exception of “I’ll Always Love You” (led by Smith), which hit number 35 in 1965, success mostly eluded them during the 1960s. After “I’ll Always Love You”, they released one single a year from 1966 to 1969 inclusive, but none charted on the Billboard Hot 100, and only their 1966 song “Truly Yours” (led by Smith) hit the Billboard R&B chart, peaking at number 16.
With commercial success virtually non-existent, during much of this decade the Spinners were used by Motown as road managers, chaperones and chauffeurs for other groups, and even as shipping clerks. G. C. Cameron replaced Edgar “Chico” Edwards in 1967, and in 1969, the group switched to the Motown-owned V.I.P. imprint. (The label name is somewhat ironic, given that V.I.P. was generally considered a substandard imprint behind Motown, Gordy, Tamla, and Soul).
In 1970, after a five-year chart absence, they hit number 14 with writer-producer Stevie Wonder’s composition (the Cameron-led) “It’s a Shame” (co-written by Syreeta Wright), and charted again the following year with another song Wonder wrote and produced, “We’ll Have It Made” (led by Cameron), from their new album 2nd Time Around. However, these were their last two singles for V.I.P.
Shortly after the release of 2nd Time Around, as Fambrough has stated in interview, has it that Atlantic Records recording artist Aretha Franklin suggested the group finish out their Motown contract and sign with Atlantic. The group made the switch but due to his contractual obligations, Cameron was unable to leave Motown so he remained with Motown as a solo artist and suggested his cousin, singer Philippé Wynne, join the Spinners as Cameron’s replacement and the group’s new lead singer. However, original lead singer Bobby Smith also retained his lead position.
The hit years with Philippé Wynne Edit
When the Spinners signed to Atlantic in 1972, they were a respected but commercially unremarkable singing group who had never had a top-ten pop hit — despite having been a recording act for over a decade. However, under the helm of producer and songwriter Thom Bell, the Spinners charted five top 100 singles (and two top 10s) from their first post-Motown album, Spinners (1972), and went on to become one of the biggest soul groups of the 1970s.
The Bobby Smith-led “I’ll Be Around”, their first top ten hit, was actually the B-side of their first Atlantic single, (the Wynne-led) “How Could I Let You Get Away”. Radio airplay for the B-side led Atlantic to flip the single over, with “I’ll Be Around” hitting #3 and “How Could I Let You Get Away” reaching #77. “I’ll Be Around” was also the Spinners’ first million-selling hit single.
The 1973 follow-up singles “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love” (led by Smith), “One of a Kind (Love Affair)” (led by Wynne), and “Ghetto Child” (led by Wynne) cemented the group’s reputation, as well as further that of Bell, a noted Philly soul producer.
Following their Atlantic successes, Motown also issued a “Best of the Spinners” LP which featured selections from their Motown/V.I.P. recordings. They also remixed and reissued the 1970 B-side “Together We Can Make Such Sweet Music” (led by Smith) as a 1973 A-side. In the midst of their Atlantic hits, it crawled to number #91 US.
The group’s 1974 follow-up album, Mighty Love, featured three Top 20 hits, “I’m Coming Home,” “Love Don’t Love Nobody,” and the title track. Their biggest hit of the year, however, was a collaboration with Dionne Warwick, “Then Came You” (led by Smith and Warwick), which hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming each act’s first chart-topping ‘Pop’ hit. The song also reached the Top 3 of Billboard′s R&B and Easy Listening charts.
The Spinners hit the Top 10 twice in the next two years with the Smith-led “They Just Can’t Stop It (The Games People Play)” (Billboard #5) and the Wynne-led “The Rubberband Man” (Billboard #2). “Games People Play” featured guest vocalist Barbara Ingram (though producer Bell disputed this in a UK-based interview, claiming Barbara’s line was actually group member Henry Fambrough – his voice sped up) and led to a nickname of “12:45” for bass singer Jackson, after his signature vocal line on the song.