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Ah! Leah!

by

Donnie Iris



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Iris was a member of The Jaggerz, who had a hit in 1970 with "The Rapper." He later became a member of Wild Cherry, where he met keyboard player Mark Avsec, and the 2 formed a musical partnership. Iris told us how this song came together and answers the question, "Who is Leah?":

"Mark and I wrote that together in my basement, around the piano, and originally Mark had the idea of an anti-war song. It started out just as a chant - it's not a chick's name, it's not a certain person or individual, in particular. We wanted to have a hook, or a chorus, to the tune, that sounded almost like a Gregorian chant, and somehow Mark came up with the 'Ah, Leah' just like a chant. I said, 'You know what, Mark, that's a chick's name,' so that's how we named it 'Ah, Leah.' It just so happens that there was a girl by the name of Leah who had dated one of the guys in The Jaggerz years ago, and I always loved that name. She was a very pretty girl, and I always loved her name. So instead of a war tune, which we messed around with and messed around with and didn't have anything in there that we liked to make it an anti-war song, it just turned out as being a love song. It was a total change in direction, and that happened with several of our songs. We were coming up with stuff and, you know, sometimes you just do something and in the end you hate it. That's what happened. We hated that... the way it was coming out as an anti-war song, and when we finally figured it was a nice way to do a love song, then we were happy with it."
Iris: "It sounds kind of passionate, when you talk about not being able to be with a chick, and every time you see this girl, you just go nuts, but it ain't right, you know, something's wrong with it. We thought that it was a passionate kind of tune."
Iris credits the songwriting of Mark Avsec as key to their success. He explains how they come up with their songs: "We'll go into the studio and put down rhythm tracks, and sometimes we'll get together for 3 or 4 days and put down 15-20 different tracks of musical pieces. Then the group goes home, and Mark will take the songs home, write the lyrics, and we'll check it out. If we like it, we'll keep it if we think it's good. If not, we'll maybe go for another lyric, or a different track, but he's unbelievable that way - just a brilliant songwriter, it's like he does it in his sleep. And he brings them into the studio, and I'll sit down, I'll go over it with him, and together we'll work out the melodies and stuff." (Thanks to Donnie Iris for speaking with us about this song. In 2006, he released Ellwood City, which is available on donnieiris.com. Check out our interview with Donnie Iris.)
Donnie Iris
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Comments (29):

I was having a really bad day earlier this week and one of my closest friends sent me this song and told me that whenever I feel down that I should listen to it and pretend that the singer is talking about me. My name is Lia (still pronounced the same as Leah haha) and ever since she sent it to me, I cannot get it out of my head, amazing song!
- Lia, Toronto, ON
I was 17, with a fake I.D., living in the Ohio Valley and going to the local clubs with my girlfriends to dance to Wild Cherry before they got a record deal. I never knew, until now, that Donnie Iris was a member of that band (maybe 'after' they got famous). Also never knew Donnie was a member of The Jaggerz (another one-hit wonder).

I have to chuckle that some people interpreted the woman's name to be "Aliyah"...To me, the "Ah!" has always been a sort of moan and/or scream and not part of the name. I know lots of Aliyahs, tho, and maybe this is where some of that originated.

Okay, about this song: IT ROCKS. The vocals and rhythm make the song sound like Donnie Iris is in the middle of having sex with Leah while he's singing. I think this is intentional. He manages to scream half the lyrics and it still sounds like singing---amazing! The siren-sounding instruments near the end strike a chilling, ominous chord, accentuating the danger surrounding the relationship...'heading for disaster'.
- Camille, Toronto, OH
The song is phenomenal and makes me think of my first DEEP crush in Jr. High.

But Bob from St. Charles, MO? Your story was amazing. A really, really beautiful tribute to a young womans life and the impression we leave on a persons soul. I'm glad your Leah is still alive...xoxo
- Cher, Tampa, FL
I knew a Leah 40 years ago as a freshman in college. There are some wimmenfolk you remember with your head. There are two in my life that I remember with my heart. Leah was the other one aside from my (current and first) wife.

I travelled to Omaha every two weeks from 1997 to 2000 working three days up there and the other seven days locally. One Sunday I took the early flight, got a one-day free rental car voucher from HQ and headed up to South Dakota, a state I'd never been to. The glaciers had stopped there, so this area of America and the Ukraine were the only two places on earth with 200 feet of topsoil. The ground was flat, the car was new, the motering was fast. Life was good -- damn good.

Then I saw a turn-off for Wayne, Nebraska, Leah's home town. Leah had told me when she was dumping me (did I tell you Leah was bright? I would have dumped me back in 1971 as well) that she may have inherited some condition that may end her life before the age of 35. This was serious stuff for a 19-year-old to hear, and it has stayed with me for all these years.

My heart sank as I saw the Wayne, NE sign in a way I that have only rarely experienced. There, off to the west maybe 20 miles, was perhaps the grave of someone I knew from college. A woman who in combination was the most beautiful, bright and jovial woman I had ever known. My sample size with women by that time was sufficient to know what the cosmos might have lost, and how utterly lucky her husband must have been during those few, precious years that he had her.

I agonized about a Leah that did not deserve to die so young, someone whose passing would have certainly caused in others many times the agony, dispair and grief that had suddenly flooded my being. It was now many years past the age of 35, and I didn't know if the young woman I knew from Wayne, NE was dead or alive.

My cousin Jeff's wife Roni had taken on a foreign tissue, her cancer, while she was taking on other foreign tissue, her pregnancy. Losing Roni, especially during the period leading up to her demise, was devastating.

This was on my mind as I drove on up that flat pavement toward Sioux City stunned, dispirited, and utterly depressed thinking of the possibility of her loss. I turned off the radio and throttled back the cruise control so no Iowa highway patrolman along I-29 could lodge any complaints and interrupt my solitude and the depression that had consumed me. I could think of nothing but what a tragedy it would have been for Leah's family to not have their Leah, just like their Roni, among the living and enjoying her prime years -- her life with growing kids and a loving spouse as I was enjoying. I kept craning to the west in a futile attempt to see if I could locate a speck 20 miles or so away, some remnant or hint of what may have become of Leah.

As it happens, Leah is alive and well I am enormously pleased to report. She lives outside of DC and is teaching high school math. I'm not sure if she told me the truth when she said she might die by 35. But damn, am I so glad she's still alive.

Thank you for listening. I feel better. And I love this song, if only because it's about Leah.
- Bob, St. Charles, MO
I remember this song well from my days as a dj at WBMA-AM in Beaufort, NC. It was a great song and I loved playing it.
- Chris, Beaufort, NC
Yeah this song is way cool.It came out my senior year of high school & I always liked it.He looks like Buddy Holly(maybe it's the glasses).Seems like he was on American Bandstand & I saw him.Really awesome harmonies.A relly good 80's song.
- dane, lima,ohio, FL
Hey, I just think it's awesome that Donnie is a three-time one-hit-wonder! Jaggerz, Wild Cherry and solo! By the way, all three songs are way cool!
- Dale, Augusta, GA
This song more than rocks, it soars above the clouds and carries you away. In my opinion, it is one of the ultimate love songs and reminds me so much of my wife and how much I loved her. Great song!
- Patrick, Milwaukee, WI
This is my ex-wife name, she use to love this song,damn she was hot,but too much work..LOL!
- Jim, Long Beach, CA
I first heard Donnie live at the "El Mocambo" in Toronto, ON, about mid-March 1981. I had been "on the road" for a week prior, and drove 250 miles in a hurry be there. The leader of our band "Johnnie Panic" insisted I had to attend this event. So I did. Donnie nearly stomped on my left elbow at least a dozen times during this performance, and I remain in recovery...Such a song ! ! ! Such A singer !!! JayCee
- John or Jay, Toronto (Pickering), ON
"Ah! Leah," is one of those songs that was much bigger on the east coast than on the west coast where I lived. The first time I heard the song was on Casey Kasem's AT40 when it entered the charts, and that is about the only place I heard the song in either Phoenix (where I was going to high school) or Los Angeles (where I would begin my undergraduate college work in the fall). I think the fact that I didn't hear the song very much helped me in growing to like it.
- ted, phoenix, AZ
I'm Leah. My fiancee is basically forcing me to play this at our wedding... Pain in my butt, but fun.
- Leah, SV, AZ
This song does it for me. The screaming at the end of the song is totally awesome.Great riff,great tune, one of my alltime favs.
- john, detroit, MI
Hello, my name is Aleaha. I first heard this song when i was 13, while going to the movies with some friends. It shocked me but i thought it was neat that i had a song with my name in it...a few hours ago my dad brought up this song so we looked it up on the internet and here we are!
- Aleaha, Kansas City, MO
Ah Leah...is one of my top three favorite songs of all time......ALL TIME! And I'm an active musician in serveral rock bands who listens to every type of music out there. It gives me goose bumps almost everytime I listen to it and it instills emotions that not many other songs can do. It's the melody combined with the rhythm and the harmonies in the chorus. All I can say is thanks Donnie!
- Brian, Chicago, IL
This song gets my vote for all time best rock n roll scream. His "Ah Leah" after the bridge has got to be the most passionate scream in rock!
- Jie Fei, Foshan, China
I first saw Donni Iris back in the early 80s at Edinboro University and Erie, at the Warner. I met Donni at Conneaut Lake park during a concert. Donni if you are reading this, Love your music bro. I named my daughter after your song, her name is Aleah and she loves that song. She is 12 and if you are ever in MN we would love to meet you again. We will be in Conneaut Lake the last week of July and first week of August so if you have a concert then, we'll be there.
Jeff, North Branch MN (formerly of Conneaut Lake, PA)
- Jeff, North Branch, MN
Fanastic Song.
- Will, Roanoke, VA
Thanks Donnie for being a member of Jaggerz & doing so well with Ah Leah!! You have certainly influenced my life in a VERY POSITIVE way!! Meg, Seattle WA
- gem, seattle, WA
I first heard this song in 1981 when I was working on an Offshore Oil Platform. The announcer said that this was a new guy who used to sing in the Jaggerz. I am from Pittsburgh, so I went out and bought the album when I returned to the beach from work. gem from seattle is right, every song on that album is good. When I moved back to PA, I met Mark and Donnie and the guys. They are intelligent and gracious gentlemen. Donnie owns a mortgage brokerage and Mark is an attorney and Adjunct Law Professor.
- John, Penn Hills, PA
This is the greatest summer jam just got done cranking it up on the Cerwin Vegas the only better way to enjoy it is in the park at dusk car stereo jamin and a cold Coors Light in hand
- Denny, Louisville, KY
Ah Leah is definately one of my favorites!! But the whole album is FANTASTIC! Will listen to it over and over again and never get tired or bored! Just found out about the myspace listing and am so enthused that he has current music, and is the singer on 2 other of my favorite songs!
- gem, seattle, WA
This song is hot. I've loved it for years. It is very insightful about the passionin a relationship. Thank you Donnie & Mark
- Tom, hershey, PA
Ah Leah is awesome. I was listening to the radio when I was 9 months pregnant and trying to figure out what to name her when Ah Leah came on the radio. My beautiful daughters name is Alleah!! Cool huh?
- Denise, Federal Way, WA
I love this song too! Had this on 45 as a child. Have it on CD now. What a great 80's rockin' song. The harmonies in this song are awesome!
- Brad, Topeka, KS
What else is there to say? It's just a truly great, awesome, rockin' song! I've loved it since the moment I heard it.
- Mark, Jonesboro, AR
I have ALWAYS loved this song. I even have it on my Ipod ;)
- Michelle, Boca Raton, FL
It is a great song. I loved the first time I heard it. I still have the vinyl and I dust it off every once it a while. It's held up well.
- Culley, Santa Rosa, CA
C'mon, people, this song ROX!!!! LEAVE AT LEAST 1 COMMENT!!!!
- Steven, West Carrollton, OH
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