“Little Green Apples” by O.C. Smith

The title of this song (“Little Green Apples”) is based on what we would commonly refer to as a roundabout metaphor. But ultimately, what it is meant to point to is the vocalist celebrating the love his significant other has for him.

The first verse comes off as if they are married and the second more like they may be dating. But either way, it appears as if the singer is in possession of a romantic partner who regularly goes the extra mile in making sure he’s A-okay. 

Or as he macrocosmically puts it, if the way she behaves ‘ain’t love’ for him then the very laws of the universe, so to speak, are also to put into question. Or put otherwise yet again, he is thoroughly convinced that he is the recipient of true affection via his significant other.

So this isn’t a love song per se, as in the singer celebrating his feelings for another person. Rather he is rejoicing at being the recipient of such, i.e. having a faithful partner who is ever-ready to do what she can to edify his day.

Lyrics for “Little Green Apples”

Hickory Holler Revisited

The writer of this song was one Bobby Russell (1940-1992), who was a popular singer in his own right, particularly during the era in which “Little Green Apples” was released, that being the late-1960s/early-1970s. And even though this song resulted in the only two Grammys he’s ever won, it was not his personal rendition of it that blew up. Rather Russell’s signature piece as a vocalist was a 1971 track entitled “Saturday Morning Confusion”.

Bobby Russell came out with his rendition of “Little Green Apples” in 1968. Apparently someone(s) else had prior to himself, though there are conflicting reports as to who dropped the song first. For instance, that would O.C. Smith, whose version came out on 15 May 1968. But according to other sources it was Roger Miller who first released this song.

O. C. Smith’s “Little Green Apples”

O.C. Smith and Success of “Little Green Apples”

But still, it was O. C. Smith’s rendition which proved to be the biggest hit. Unlike Russell, who was a country musician, O.C. Smith (1932), being an African-American and all, specialized in R&B. 

And “Little Green Apples” was the signature song of his career. For instance, his version peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also made it onto the top 5 of Billboard’s Adult Contemporary and Hot Country Songs listings. 

And even more notably, it resulted in Bobby Russell being awarded the Song of the Year Grammy in 1969, which is the only time he had accomplished that feat.

Russell also took home another Grammy Award in 1969 for Best Country Song, once again as a result of “Little Green Apples”. However, that particular accolade was as a result of the aforementioned Roger Miller (1936-1992) version.

At the time this song was number 2 on the Hot 100, the top spot was being held down by The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” (1968).

Famous Covers of “Little Green Apples”

And to note a bunch of big name artists have taken a crack at this song, including greats like:

  • Johnny Mathis (1968)
  • Frank Sinatra (1968)
  • Dionne Warwick (1968)
  • The Temptations (1969)
  • Bing Crosby (1969)
  • Dean Martin (1969)
  • Tony Bennett (1970)
  • Ben E. King (1970)
  • Nancy Wilson (2004)
  • Robbie Williams alongside Kelly Clarkson (2013)

Copyright Issues

In fact it would appear that back in the days, i.e. the pre-1970s American music era, copyright laws were a lot more lax than they are in the present, or at least songwriters were a lot freer in terms of letting various musicians cover their works. For it was quite common for hit songs to be covered a number of times over, even in the very year in which said hit was originally dropped.

Hickory Holler Revisited

This track was featured on O.C. Smith’s second album, 1968’s Hickory Holler Revisited. And as the story goes, apparently Columbia Records never intended to release it as a single. However, a Detroit-based DJ decided to play the cut one day on the radio, and it went viral. So they did go on to issue it as such. And in addition to Columbia Records, CBS Records has also been involved in the issuance of this track.

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