The Donays made just one single, and that record -- though a very good girl group/pop disc -- would likely be totally forgotten today if not for one stroke of chance. The record was "Devil in His Heart," and the stroke of chance was the Beatles somehow finding it and covering it (on their second album, 1963's With the Beatles), with George Harrison on lead vocals.
The single, with "Bad Boy" on the B-side, was produced in Detroit by Richard "Popcorn" Wylie, who had recorded for Motown. "Devil in His Heart" was indeed reminiscent of some of Motown's early-'60s girl group-flavored tracks, as well as of the Shirelles. But it was quite strong on its own merits, with an outstanding melody that owed debts to Latin music in its riffs and rhythms. It was strong enough to be a hit, but it wasn't, although it was picked up by Brent Records in New York and did well in Michigan. How it made its way across the ocean and into the hands of the Beatles is a mystery; perhaps George Harrison was the one who found it, as he sang lead. The Beatles changed the title to "Devil in Her Heart," and transformed it into a pounding rocker with great call-response backup vocals and imaginative guitar flourishes. While their version is superior, it doesn't diminish the class of the Donays' original, which had a slightly slower tempo, strong harmonies, and more soul-pop-oriented production.
Another mystery: Why didn't the Donays, still in high school, ever make another record? The original version of "Devil in His Heart" was extremely hard to locate and heard by few until the '80s, when it started to crop up on some reissues. The 2000 Ace CD compilation Rockin' on Broadway: The Time, Brent, Shad Story does include both "Devil in His Heart" and its B-side, "Bad Boy," which was also written by "Devil in His Heart"-author Richard Drapkin. Incidentally, "Bad Boy," though not as good as "Devil in His Heart," is another reasonable early Motownish tune in the spirit of the early Marvelettes and Supremes. ~ Richie Unterberger
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