Laura Nyro wrote this song when she was just 18, and released it on her first album in 1967. The song finds the singer letting her boyfriend (Bill) know that although she loves him, she's becoming frustrated waiting for him to propose to her (Beyonce updated this theme with her hit "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)
So, was there really a "Bill"? Alan Merrill would know - the son of Jazz singer Helen Merrill, he grew up with Laura, and they thought of each other as cousins, since her uncle married Alan's aunt. Alan, who became a rock star in England with his band The Arrows, explains:
Around 1958 or so my mom was dating a married man named Bill Carter, a b-film actor. He was married to Trink Wiman, heiress to the John Deere fortune. My mom and Bill co-owned a jazz club named The Night Owl (not the Greenwich Village rock venue) and were having a very passionate and public relationship. The club was quite possibly funded by Ms. Wiman's money. The affair was so serious in fact that Trink had private detectives invade our apartment at 800 Grand Concourse (Bronx) in 1958, I was there and remember it. The ensuing newspaper scandal was the reason we left to reside in Europe for many years.
This was big family gossip of course, and Laura listened to it as a child and later wrote about it. My mother could never marry Bill, and didn't. Her timing was bad. Seeing a married man was a big deal in the '50s, but that the wife was such a wealthy heiress upped the ante. My mother seethes at the mention of his name now and refuses to discuss him, although she did confirm the story of the affair (and Laura admitting to her that it was the inspiration for the song) when interviewed in Michele Kort's book about Laura's life - Soul Picnic
My mom was not amused at Laura's incisive lyric, but in fact Laura was an investigative journalist as an artist and got the story spot-on in the song. A zinger from my mom's perspective, but a big winner in terms of sale for Laura!