In this song, Ben E. King is fighting memories of a failed relationship. Hearing their old song reminds him of better times with his ex-lover and, even worse, that it was all a lie.
The chorus finds King's backup singers delivering the line, "Darling I love you" in the style of a girl group like The Shirelles or The Crystals. King gives his retort after each line: You Know that you lied!
The song is credited as being written by Atlantic honcho Ahmet Ertegun and King's wife, Betty Nelson, although the The Billboard Book of Number One R&B Hits claims King used Nelson's name as a pseudonym.
Aretha Franklin, who like King recorded for Atlantic Records, released a bluesy piano rendition on her 1970 album Spirit In The Dark that went to #11 US and #3 UK, and was also her ninth #1 hit on the R&B chart.
Franklin recorded it at Criteria studio in Miami with Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin as producers. She played the piano on the track while the Dixie Flyers, a studio band founded by drummer Sammy Creason, handled the rhythm section. Without telling either what the other was doing, Wexler had Dowd add horns while Mardin, back in New York, added strings. Dowd was shocked to hear the final product on the radio. He recalled in the 1982 book The Record Producers by John Tobler and Stuart Grundy: "I remember sitting in Miami listening to the radio and hearing it and thinking, 'When did they put those strings on that? That's where the horns are supposed to be.' If we'd known that we were working on the song, Arif would have changed the strings and I'd have changed the horns, and it wouldn't have been the same thing."
It earned Franklin a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female.
Along with "Stand By Me
" and "Spanish Harlem
," this was one of King's biggest hits. All three songs attracted a number of cover versions; "Spanish Harlem" was also done by Aretha Franklin.
Margaret Branch, Brenda Bryant, and Almeda Lattimore sang backing vocals on Franklin's version. Branch and Bryant (Aretha's cousin) also joined the singer for her Aretha Live At The Fillmore West
album as The Sweethearts of Soul (along with Pat Smith) and appeared as her backing singers in The Blues Brothers
during the "Think
Mariah Carey performed this live at her debut showcase in 1990 at New York's Club Tatou. Her version was included on her 1991 video collection The First Vision.