Back when telephones had actual bells, if you asked someone to "ring my bell," it meant to give that person a call. Or it could refer to getting down and dirty in the bedroom.
The lyric implies the latter, with Anita Ward telling her man the night is young and "full of possibilities," and letting him know he can ring her bell. In the opening line, she says, "I'm glad you're home," so he would have no need to call her, right?
Despite the evidence, Ward has always stayed on script in denying there is any sexual connotation in the song. "I've had people ask me many times, 'What does that song really mean?'" She told the Memphis Downtowner in 2018. "And I said, 'Whatever you want it to mean.' But it was just a simple love song. Totally innocent."
This disco classic was written by Ward's producer, Frederick Knight, known for his 1972 hit "I've Been Lonely For So Long." He originally intended it for 11-year-old Stacy Lattisaw, but when she signed with a different label, Ward was asked to sing it instead. She disliked the song and only recorded it as Frederick Knight insisted they needed another dance number on the album.
According to Knight, it was originally meant to be "a teenybopper type of song about kids talking on the telephone," which was appropriate for Lattisaw's juvenile audience but not suitable for the grown-up disco crowd. With Ward as his new inspiration, Knight overhauled the song with sexy lyrics and a dance beat. In the song, Ward welcomes her man home and invites him to ring her bell - an obvious euphemism for getting in on. But Knight insisted his intentions were wholesome. "Anita is a very clean-cut person," he told Billboard magazine, "so I went to great pains being picky about lyric content. We're trying to build a respectable image for her. The lyric talks about an everyday situation - it's nothing you'd be ashamed of in front of your kids."
This was one of the first hit songs to feature a synthesized drum. The hook was the synthesized drum of Frederick Knight, which produced a sound that became copied by many other disco records. Carl Marsh is also credited for his synthesizer work on the album.
Anita Ward started out as a gospel singer in Memphis. She was still working as a substitute teacher when this hit the charts. When she got the phone call that "Ring My Bell" had gone Gold, she had no idea it was even being played on the radio. Still oblivious to her whirlwind success, she almost turned down the chance to appear on Wolfman Jack's Midnight Special because she had to teach a class the next morning. Thankfully, she changed her mind and performed this and "Make Believe Lovers" on the show.
This song required three studios, four engineers, two remixers and a "midnight mix by Richie Rivera" as well as the production of Frederick Knight to produce its innovative sound. Knight also provided backing vocals.
Ward went to #87 with her next single, "Don't Drop My Love," but never returned to the charts.
DJ Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince (Will Smith) recorded a rap version in 1991 that made #20 US.
Rapper Snoop Dogg disclosed to Clash magazine that this was the first record that he ever bought.
This was also a #1 hit on the R&B and Disco charts.
Ward didn't realize she was owed royalties for the song until Burger King used it for one of its commercials in the '90s. Her husband thought it was strange she wasn't getting any compensation for the popular ad and contacted the fast food giant to see what was up. It turns out, Knight had sold the song to Malaco Records, who licensed it to Burger King. Ward didn't get a piece of the pie - or in this case, the crispy chicken sandwich - because the label thought she was dead. The very-much-alive singer dug out her contract and realized she was owed 25 percent of all revenues from the song and finally started getting paid.
The song was also used in a 2018 commercial to promote Walmart's free two-day shipping deal. In the clip, the song plays as delivery people ring customers' doorbells.
This earned Ward a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (Dionne Warwick won for "Déjà Vu
This was used in these movies:
Gloria Bell (2018)
The Book Of Eli (2010)
Are We Done Yet? (2007)
Corky Romano (2001)
Mystery Men (1999)
The Waterboy (1998)
And in these TV shows:
Doom Patrol ("Paw Patrol" -2019)
Elementary ("Uncanny Valley Of The Dolls" - 2018)
Everybody Hates Chris ("Everybody Hates Valentine's Day" - 2006)
Cold Case ("Daniela" - 2004)
On the 2019 episode of The Good Place
"You've Changed, Man," Maya Rudolph's character enters a disco void and sings along to this song. When "Ring My Bell" was released, many thought it was sung by Rudolph's mother, Minnie Riperton, who had a hit in 1974 with "Lovin' You
." She and Ward had similar voices in a very high range. In 1979, they released an album together called Songs Of Love
, with Ward's songs on one side and Riperton's on the other.