Games People Play (Joe South song)

"Games People Play" is a song written, composed, and performed by American singer-songwriter Joe South, released in August 1968,[1] that won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Song and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.[2]

"Games People Play"
Single by Joe South
from the album Introspect
B-side"Mirror of Your Mind"
ReleasedAugust 1968
GenreFolk rock, country rock, psychedelic rock
Songwriter(s)Joe South
Producer(s)Joe South
Joe South singles chronology
"Birds of a Feather"
"Games People Play"
"Don't It Make You Want to Go Home"


"Games People Play" is a protest song whose lyrics speak against various forms of hatred, hypocrisy, inhumanity, intolerance, and irresponsibility, in both interpersonal and social interactions between people. Billboard favorably reviewed the song some three months after its release and eight weeks before it finally reached the Hot 100.[3]

The song was released on South's debut album Introspect and as a single, reaching #12 on the Hot 100.[4] It was also a #6 hit in the UK in 1969, #4 in Ireland, and won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Song and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.[5]

The distinctive guitar in the opening is played on a Danelectro electric sitar,[6] which can be seen in a video recorded to support South's album "Introspect." 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; this rendition spent two weeks at #2 on the country charts.[7]

Chart history

Inner Circle version

"Games People Play" was covered by Inner Circle on their 1994 album, Reggae Dancer. It reached #84 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and #51 on Cash Box. It reached the Top 10 in parts of Europe, but did best in New Zealand, where it peaked at number four.

Chart history

Other versions

Canadian singer Renée Martel recorded a French-language cover version (as "Nos jeux d'enfants", translated to English, "Our Children's Games") in 1969.

Don Gibson covered "Games People Play" on his 1970 album, Hits, The Don Gibson Way.

Jazz vocalist Johnny Hartman covered the song on his 1972 album Today.

Sami Jo covered the song on her debut LP in 1974.[26]

Tesla covered "Games People Play" on their 1994 album, Bust a Nut.

"Games People Play" has also been covered by Jeannie C. Riley, Bob Andy, The Israelites, Lynn Anderson, King Curtis, Lee Dorsey, Dick Gaughan, Bettye Lavette, Lissie, Dolly Parton, Billie Jo Spears, Mel Tormé, Conway Twitty, Arlen Roth, Joe Dolan, Petula Clark, Merle Haggard, Don Williams, and Emily Rose.

In 2019, Elvis Costello performed "Games People Play" publicly for the first time as a medley with his song "Different Finger."[27]


  1. "Games People Play / Mirror of Your Mind - Joe South". 45cat. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  3. "Spotlight Singles: Special Merit Spotlight" (PDF). Billboard. 1968-11-16. p. 74. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  4. "Games People Play (song by Joe South) ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  6. Thom Hickey (2016-02-01). "Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin & Elvis all revered Joe South : Games People Play". The Immortal Jukebox. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  7. Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 379.
  11. "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Games People Play". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  14. "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  15. Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  16. "RPM Top Singles of 1969". Library and Archives Canada. RPM. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  17. "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1969". Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  19. Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 27, 1969
  20. "Inner Circle – New Zealand Chart". Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  21. Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  22. "JAAROVERZICHTEN - Single 1994" (in Dutch). Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  23. "End of Year Charts 1994". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  24. "Årslista Singlar, 1994" (in Swedish). Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
  25. "SCHWEIZER JAHRESHITPARADE 1994". Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  27. Friedman, Roger (October 30, 2019). "Elvis Costello Offers Phenomenal Show in Port Chester, Playing Old, New Hits and 'Games People Play' First Time Ever". Showbiz411. Retrieved November 1, 2019.

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