Don't Leave Me This Way

Album: Any Way You Like It (1976)
Charted: 13 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This song was originally recorded by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes with a soulful lead vocal by Teddy Pendergrass. Released on their 1975 album Wake Up Everybody, it wasn't issued as a single in America (their record company went with "Tell The World How I Feel About 'Cha Baby," which went to #94). Hal Davis, who was producing Thelma Houston, heard the song and had her record it for her 1976 album Any Way You Like It. Her version became the American hit, going to #1 in April 1977.
  • The song was written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Cary Gilbert. Gamble and Huff, who produced the track, owned the Philadelphia International, which released the original version. Gilbert was a lyricist who worked at the label; he wrote the lyric, which finds the singer begging his girl not to leave. Filled with desire, only her love can satisfy him. The song was written gender neutral, so it works when sung by either a man or woman with no change to the words, since the object of desire is addressed as "baby."
  • Thelma Houston had been recording since the mid-'60s, but despite tremendous acclaim, she wasn't able to land a hit until "Don't Leave Me This Way." Her first album, Sunshower, was produced by Jimmy Webb but went nowhere. She bounced around between labels and producers, and in 1974 earned a Grammy nomination for her song "You've Been Doing Wrong for So Long" (Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female). She recorded the original version of "Do You Know Where You're Going To," but her version wasn't released as the song went to Diana Ross for her movie Mahogany.

    Houston finally found the right chemistry on her 1976 album Any Way You Like It. Producer Hal Davis had recorded "Love Hangover," a disco hit for Diana Ross, and used that template in turning "Don't Leave Me This Way" into a dance track. Davis recorded Houston in the same studio he recorded Ross (Paramount in Los Angeles), using many of the same musicians (including James Gadson on drums and Henry Davis on bass). Key to the sound was the guitar by Art Wright, who also did the arrangement.

    Houston never again got higher than #34 in the US, which is where her song "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning" landed in 1979.
  • In the UK, the original version by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, which went nowhere in 1975, was re-released when Houston's version came out. Both versions shared space on the charts, with Melvin's reaching #5 and Houston's stalling at #13.

    Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes were touring Europe at the time, but had parted ways with Teddy Pendergrass, so their new lead singer, David Ebo, performed this song in concert.

    The Pendergrass departure coincided with the group leaving Philadelphia International Records. Under terms of the agreement, none of the group's material could be re-released in the US for a certain number of years, so when Houston brought the song to the forefront, the original version of "Don't Leave Me This Way" had to stay put.
  • In 1986, the British duo The Communards released a cover of this song featuring vocalist Sarah Jane Morris. This version went to #40 in America, but was a monster hit in the UK, where it was the top-selling single of 1986 and held the top spot for four weeks.
  • Backup singers on this track were Maxine and Julia Waters, who appeared on many disco tracks, as well as recordings by Neil Diamond, Adele, and many others.
  • This won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female.
  • In the UK, a re-released version made #35 in 1995.
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