The Original vs. The Cover – “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”

For this episode of The Original vs. The Cover, we are going to battle it out with the song “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”. The original was done by the band Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes which has Teddy Pendergrass on lead vocals and The Cover is done by the band Simply Red. Both artist did really well with the song as Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes took the song all the way to #3 on the Billboard Charts in 1972 and Simple Red went all the way to #1 in 1989.

The song itself was written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. They were a pretty mighty songwriting team with over 175 Gold and Platinum records between them. The song is a result of marital problems and those problems allowed them to touch in to a very heartfelt sentiment. They believed that if their spouse didn’t know them by now, they never would. Those marital problems certainly created an amazing song.

HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES:

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes didn’t actually play any of the instruments and only sang, but that don’t matter. The session musicians were incredible. The rhythm section of the song was incredible as they laid down a smooth groove and vibe. You had Earl Young on drums and Ronnie Baker on bass and both were stellar. The song was filled with a piano backing by the songwriter Leon Huff and a string orchestration from Don Renaldo. The tempo was slow, sultry and a little sexy. The song feels larger than life.

Teddy Pendergrass on vocals was the main reason for the sexiness. His vocals were passionat and oh so smooth. He sang like he felt it and believed every note he sang. You could feel the pain the song was emoting as he was so hurt that his love didn’t really know who he was and he was ready to call it off if she wasn’t willing to make it work. It is all quite beautiful.

SIMPLY RED:

Simply Red’s version doesn’t stray to far from the original. The drumming was a little more sharp and had a heavy use on the snare drum that the original didn’t have. I think it hurts the sonics of the song with that sound. The bass line is still great by Tony Bowers, but Chris Joyce’s drums were my biggest complaint on the rhythm section. There are keyboards from either Tim Kellett and/or from Fritz McIntyre, but the song had no string instrumentation. Funny thing, I loved this song when it came out, but musically it doesn’t hold up against the original when played one after the other.

The one thing that does hold up is the vocals by Mick Hucknall. He has such an amazing voice and he is vested in the song. His vocals are soulful and really feels the song. But again, he doesn’t really have the strength of Teddy’s vocals and now I don’t know if I can listen to this song with the same memories I had before.

THE VERDICT:

I think it obvious which one I will be picking. As much as I loved the Simply Red version when it came out as at the time I didn’t know it was a cover. But when you play Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes version with Teddy Pendergrass on vocals, you really have no choice. Musically, their version is far superior as the musicianship is unmatched. That rhythm section had the perfect groove. And then throw in Teddy’s soulful and sexy ass stylings and damn, the contest is completely over. So, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes is my clear winner.

I am really interested in hearing what everyone else thinks of these two songs.  Let me know which version you like the best and why.  Feel free to leave a comment and talk about the song and tell me how right or wrong I am on this one.  Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.

Lyrics:

“If You Don’t Know Me By Now”

If you don’t know me by now
You will never, never, never know me, ooh

All the things that we’ve been through
You should understand me like I understand you
Now, baby, I know the difference between right and wrong
I ain’t gonna do nothing to upset our happy home
Oh, don’t get so excited when I come home a little late at night
‘Cause we only act like children when we argue, fuss and fight, hey-hey

If you don’t know me by now (if you don’t know me by now)
You will never, never, never know me (you’ll never, never, never know me, eh hey)
If you don’t know me by now (if you don’t, if you don’t know me, baby)
You will never, never, never know me (no you won’t, eh hey)

We’ve all got our own funny moods
I’ve got mine, woman, you got yours too
Just trust in me like I trust in you
As long as we’ve been together, that should be so easy to do
Just get yourself together, or we might as well say goodbye
What good is a love affair when we can’t see eye to eye, oh

If you don’t know me by now (if you don’t, if you don’t know me, baby)
You will never, never, never know me (hey-hey, hey-hey, eh hey-hey)
If you don’t know me by now (if you don’t know me by now)
You will never, never, never know me (no you won’t, oh)

If you don’t know me by now (ten long years, ten long years we’ve been together)
You will never, never, never know me (if you don’t know me by now, oh, oh, oh)
If you don’t know me by now (you’ll never, never, never know me)

Written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff

25 thoughts on “The Original vs. The Cover – “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”

  1. I think Teddy sings it with much more compassion. I noticed that sharp tap of the drum on the Simply Red one that was quite irritating. Red’s is the lite version of the song, and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes wins this contest handily.

    Is this a regular feature on your blog?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m old enough to remember the Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes original. I loved it and all their subsequent music, especially “The Love I Lost”, “Bad Luck”, “Wake Up Everybody” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way”. Simply Red do an admirable job on their cover, but the original remains the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Simply Red done a good cover, but I think you have got it right, Teddy’s voice is a clear winner. I have seen Simply Red live twice now, the first time my wife friend pulled out at the last minute, so I got dragged along. It was the Stars tour, tell you what, they put on a good show.

    Liked by 1 person

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