Main | Monday, November 27, 2006

Instant Disco History #10
Don't Leave Me This Way

Don't Leave Me This Way, written by the legendary Gamble & Huff , the Philly Soul songwriter/producers who, with studio musicians MFSB, almost single-handedly created the American disco sound, is one of the most covered songs in the disco oeuvre. Surprisingly, many of the cover versions were hits in their own rights.

Even more surprising, to me, is that I don't hate most of them. My usual opinion on covers is "once is enough". I can generally dig an interesting take on a classic, but more than one or two covers and I'm totally sick of all of them. But not for Don't Leave Me This Way, a track that has managed to pop up in a good cover version fairly regularly in the 31 years since the original was released. Below are my favorites.

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, featuring Teddy Pendergrass. The original and still my favorite, this version appeared on the group's brilliant 1975 album, Wake Up Everybody.

Don't Leave Me This Way - Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Philadelphia International Records, 1975. #5 Disco, #5 UK Singles. (Download 6:07)

Released on an unusual two-artist 12" single, with The Commodores' Sexy Dancer on the flip, Thelma Houston's 1976 cover came close on the heels of the original, yet it was Houston's version that scored the biggest chart success.

Don't Leave Me This Way- Thelma Houston. Motown Records, 1976. #1 US Singles, #1 US Dance, #1 UK Singles. (Download 5:48)

In 1986, former Bronski Beat lead singer Jimmy Somerville's new duo Communards turned in a ripping version, which topped the UK singles chart and was an huge smash in the clubs stateside. Radio success eluded them here at the time, but their cover is a staple of today's mix shows. Communards broke up in '88, but Somerville continues to record and perform. The "other guy", Richard Coles, is now a priest with the Church Of England.

Don't Leave Me This Way - Communards, MCA Records, 1986. #1 UK Singles, #40 US Singles, #1 US Dance. (Download 6:27)

Back in 1985, when she became a six-week Star Search best vocalist winner, Jeanie Tracy was already well known to gay dance aficionados as one of Sylvester's back-up singers. Mixed by Sylvester himself, Tracy's 1986 version of Don't Leave saw no radio success, but her cover was well loved in the gay clubs, where she continues to perform frequently. Jeanie Tracy has had several huge hits on Billboard's dance chart in the last few years, including the recent #1 Keep The Party Jumpin'.

Don't Leave Me This Way - Jeanie Tracy, Megatone Records, 1986. (Download 6:20)

I've left off some of the more forgettable covers, notably Sheena Easton's hi-NRG cover, which did see some club success several years ago. But still, good covers of Don't Leave Me This Way continue to appear, proof of which can be found via a brand new trip-hop cover by UK act Black Grass, which is streaming live on their MySpace page.

Previously on JMG:
Instant Disco History #1: Voggue
Instant Disco History #2: Luther Vandross
Instant Disco History #3: Skatt Bros.
Instant Disco History #4: Karen Finley
Instant Disco History #5: Disco Orchestra
Instant Disco History #6: On Broadway
Instant Disco History #7: New York City
Instant Disco History #8: Disco Lucy
Instant Disco History #9: Morning Music

comments powered by Disqus