This was written by singer/songwriter Joe Henry, whose wife Melanie is Madonna's sister. Henry went to high school with Madonna and has a good relationship with her, but rarely tries to pitch songs to her. When Henry's wife heard this song, she took it to Madonna, who turned it into a dance hit.
Henry's original version has the same lyrics, but is called "Stop" and is more of a Tango. It appears on his 2001 album Scar
In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR), Joe Henry explained: "I've got good friends who knew both versions of the song and it never occurred to them that it was the same words going by. It's been a really good lesson as a songwriter because I'm very lyric-oriented, but I realized when that song happened for her - she had a big hit with it - that it really doesn't matter what you're saying as long as the groove is convincing."
Henry added: "I thought the song was a complete throwaway. I had just moved and set up a studio in the guesthouse of my home and was looking to record anything to make sure my things were working. I needed something to record, so I wrote that song in about 25 minutes just to give myself something to do. I was a little embarrassed by it, it starts off a little spoon-in-June and takes a cryptic turn at the end. I thought it was a trifle, but in the right hands, a trifle has turned into some very handsome shoes that I'm wearing."
For Henry, this was a financial windfall, as he received royalties on Madonna's recording, in the same NPR interview, he said: "It had been a complete abstraction to me to see back end on anything. But I found I'm very adaptable."
Speaking with Interview magazine about this song in 2001, Madonna said: "To me it is a romantic song. Just, you know, rip my skin off, do not tell me who I should love, or how I should love. Don't tell me to give up. To me, in a way it's like that Frank Sinatra song, 'If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere.'"
Leo from Westminster 1, MdI agree with Theresa! Again, as with Crazy for You, Take a Bow, One More Chance, Nothing Fails and Love Spent, Don't Tell Me is a Sad and Beautiful Country Song. When Madonna Cries in Don't Tell Me, the result is magic. Miranda Lambert, Neko Case and Lucinda Williams have nothing on this Detroit Rebel! Even when Madonna is an Alt-Country Heartbreaker, she does it with sadness, beauty-and grace too.
Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnThe video is so simple but it works. When Madonna works with Joe Henry - magic happens.