If You Don't Know Me By Now

Album: Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes (1971)
Charted: 9 3

Songfacts®:

  • Teddy Pendergrass sang lead here. He was the drummer for the group but took over vocals when their original lead singer left. The Blue Notes had been around for a while, and Harold Melvin was the only original member, which prompted the name change to Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. This was their first hit, and many people assumed Pendergrass was Harold Melvin, something Melvin didn't appreciate.
    Pendergrass did well as a solo artist after leaving the group in 1976, scoring hits with "Close The Door" and "Two Hearts" (with Stephanie Mills). A car accident in 1982 left him partially paralyzed.
  • This was written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who were architects of the Philadelphia Soul sound. They credit their marital problems with allowing them to write such a heart-rending song.
  • Gamble and Huff would bring a notebook filled with potential song titles into their songwriting sessions, and they found a great hook in this one, which was the starting point for the song. They explained to Terry Gross in an interview on NPR that the song expressed a common sentiment - your lady doesn't seem to understand you, and you feel like "if you don't know me by now, you never will."
  • Gamble and Huff sang backup on this track. They sang on many of the tracks they produced for artists like The Stylistics and Archie Bell & The Drells.
  • Simply Red's cover version was a huge hit in 1989. It went to US #1 and UK #2.
  • Gamble and Huff originally wrote this for Labelle, who are best known for the original hit version of "Lady Marmalade. The trio declined to record the tune but after going solo, their frontwoman Patti Labelle made the song part of her concert repertoire.

Comments: 10

  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenWhat John said below was no surprise to me at all. The opening of this and "Take It to the Limit" are almost identical and it always takes me a few seconds to figure out which one it is.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 3rd, 1972 "If You Don't Know Me By Now" by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes peaked at #3 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on September 30th at position #80 and spent 17 weeks on the Top 100...
    And on November 18th, 1972 it reached #1 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    R.I.P. Mr. Melvin (1939 - 1997) and Mr. Pendergrass (1950 - 2010).
  • Mark from Mchenry, IlSo sorry to hear that Teddy has just died. There is not a better vocal anywhere than what he did on this song.
  • Adrien Monk from San Francisco, CaThis was also featured in the Cuba Gooding, Jr movie "Radio".
  • Jennifer from Indianapolis, InI just heard the version recorded by Seal in 2008 for the first time. IMO it is OK, but not nearly as good as the original version or Simply Red's cover.
  • John from Nashville, TnThe Eagles admitted in an interview that the arrangement on "Take It To The Limit" was based on this song.
  • Lars from Columbia(danish Import), ScLove this song. It was featured in the American film, Radio.
  • Adam from Poplar Bluff, MoRicky Gervais' character David Brent on the Office performed this and made a music video of it on the Office Christmas Special.
  • George from Richmond, VaOne of many songs for the love of my life. Thanks for the 22 years, miss you!
  • Pat from Brampton, CanadaThe first two bars of this song and The Eagles' "Take It To the Limit" are virtually identical. But this is apparently coincidental, rather than stealing. "If You Don't Know.." was written and released first.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Janis Ian: Married in London, but not in New YorkSong Writing

Can you be married in one country but not another? Only if you're part of a gay couple. One of the first famous singers to come out as a lesbian, Janis wrote a song about it.

Roger McGuinn of The ByrdsSongwriter Interviews

Roger reveals the songwriting formula Clive Davis told him, and if "Eight Miles High" is really about drugs.

Ralph Casale - Session ProSongwriter Interviews

A top New York studio musician, Ralph played guitar on many '60s hits, including "Lightnin' Strikes," "A Lover's Concerto" and "I Am A Rock."

Gene Simmons of KissSongwriter Interviews

The Kiss rocker covers a lot of ground in this interview, including why there are no Kiss collaborations, and why the Rock Hall has "become a sham."

90210 to Buffy to Glee: How Songs Transformed TVSong Writing

Shows like Dawson's Creek, Grey's Anatomy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed the way songs were heard on TV, and produced some hits in the process.

Trucking Songs That Were #1 HitsSong Writing

The stories behind the biggest hit songs about trucking.