Do You Know Where You’re Going To (m. Michael Masser, w. Gerry Goffin)
Thelma Houston — single Tamla Motown (New Zealand) TMM.872, b/w “Together” (M. Masser, Pam Sawyer), issued in New Zealand in 1973
Conflicting reports regarding the year the song was recorded by Thelma Houston, and whether it was released by Motown in the US:
- Labels of the New Zealand single displayed at 45cat.com, Discogs.com, and SwissCharts.com bear the date 1973. A note in the Discogs.com page on the single says, “Originally scheduled for U.S. release in late 1973 as Motown M-1260, but apparently cancelled. As far as I know, New Zealand is the only country where this single was released.”
- In its Thelma Houston page, soulwalking.co.uk appears to be three years off on the date of the original single:
Thelma’s 1976 version of the song ‘Do You Know Where You’re Going To’ was set to be released, however, the song was given to Diana Ross as part of the movie soundtrack for the film ‘Mahogany’.
- In the comments section of an article on the song at SongFacts.com, John in Nashville, Tennessee, says,
“Do You Know Where You’re Going To” was originally recorded by Motown artist Thelma Houston in 1973. Her version was released as Motown single #1260.
In a post featuring the Mahogany soundtrack version with the revised lyric, recorded in 1975 by Diana Ross, blogger Abagond says,
“Do You Know Where You’re Going To” had been kicking around at Motown for years. Thelma Houston was about to do it as a single but then it was given to Diana Ross to use as the theme song for her film “Mahogany” (1975). Thus the strange two-part name. It became one of those theme songs that are more famous than the film itself.
Thelma Houston’s recording of the song is included in the Motown Records singles discography at Global Dog Productions (GDP) as Motown 1260, b/w “Together,” dated July 1973. I’ve used GDP’s discographies periodically over the past couple of years, and have not previously noticed it to be their practice to report in their lists, undifferentiated from verifiable releases, scheduled releases that were cancelled. However, being cancelled is what some of the major discography sites such as Discogs.com and Second Hand Songs report happened to Motown 1260.
The existence of a published catalog number, and the fact that I’ve yet to see or hear of any evidence of a Motown 1260 disc or label, together suggest that a U.S. single release was planned, assigned a catalog number, probably announced in notices, but cancelled. A less likely scenario, one which might help explain the inclusion in the GDP discography, is that a limited number of singles were issued before the record was withdrawn from the market.
(below) In 2009, Thelma Houston performs “Do You Know Where You’re Going To” using the original 1973 lyric, with a few minor modifications
Lyric, 1973 version
The Sections I’ve numbered 3 and 4 are heavily rewritten in the 1975 (Diana Ross) version, with only a couple of lines having any resemblance to the the lines they replace. The lines about “Stony Brook” (University, presumably) in section 3 of the 1973 version indicate that the first person, the narrative speaker, is rather down on the institution. While “just hanging out” there, she and the second person (the “you” to whom the monologue is directed) had “had a look,” and having done so the first person concludes that they’d now “seen what nothing’s about.” Section 4 doesn’t slam any places of higher learning, but its relation to the rest of the lyric is far from clear.
“Do You Know Where You’re Going To?” lyric by Gerry Goffin, 1973 Thelma Houston version — transcribed by doc on 9 June 2014:
Do you know where you’re going to
Do you like the things that life is showing you
Where are you going to
Do you know
Do you get what you’re hoping for
When you look behind you there’s no open doors
What are you hoping for
Do you know
Sometimes while standing still in time
You think you’ll live the thoughts that fill your mind
Now we’ve both been to Stony Brook, just hanging out
We’ve had a look and seen what nothing’s about
Now, what am I to say to you
What kind of prayer am I to pray for you
I can only do my best and tell you what I see
And if you see the rest, please send it to me
repeat 1 & 2
Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To?) (m. Michael Masser, w. Gerry Goffin) — 1975 version
From the chapter “Forget Diana,” of the book Diana Ross: A Biography (2014) by J. Randy Taraborelli, page 295:
In September 1975, “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To?)” was released. Prior to its release Berry Gordy and Michael Mass, who also composed the soundtrack to the film argued over the mix– the actual sound of the recording. Berry wanted one version released, Michael another. As a last resort to get his way, Michael sneaked in to the recording studio and erased a portion of the version Berry preferred, thereby causing his (Masser’s) version to actually be released. It was a clever trick on Michael’ part, and Berry wasn’t pleased about it at the time. Since then, he’s learned to laugh about it, especially since Michael’s version went straight to number one on the pop charts. It remains one of Diana Ross’s most popular songs. Her performance on it was imaginative and compelling and set the stage beautifully for the release of the movie.
Diana Ross — Motown M 1377F, issued on 24 September 1975, b/w “No One’s Gonna Be A Fool Forever” (Michael Masser, Pam Sawyer) — chart peaks: #1 Hot 100 (1 week, 24 January 1976), and #1 Easy Listening (1 week, 6 December 1975)