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You Don't Miss Your Water:William Bell

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"You Don't Miss Your Water" is a soul song and the debut single written and recorded by American singer William Bell. It was released by Stax Records in 1961. It is Bell's signature song and best known recording.


 [hide*1 Overview


The song was written while Bell was in New York, playing with the Phineas Newborn Orchestra, with lyrics that were not inspired by a lost love, but by Bell's own feelings of homesickness. Bell recorded the song upon returning to Memphis, believing that he was making a demo. However, the recording was released as the B-side of the lesser known Bell single "Formula of Love". It was only after DJ's flipped the record over and began playing the B-side instead of the A-side that sales started to pick up.

The song did not chart in the Billboard R&B charts (southern U.S. records were often either not given enough attention by the chart compilers or lacked the slick production of the more popular Detroit and uptown soul outlets), although it did reach #95 on the pop charts. Since then, the track has gone on to become a Southern soul classic. The song was also released on Bell's 1967 album The Soul of a Bell, along with the original version of "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man", which was more famously covered by Aretha Franklin.

Lyrically, the song's theme revolves around the singer's confession of his unfaithfulness to his lover and, now that she's gone, his realization of his foolishness.

But when you left me

And said bye-bye I missed my water My well ran dry

Cover versions[edit]Edit

"You Don't Miss Your Water" was covered by Otis Redding and released on his critically acclaimed 1965 album, Otis BlueThe Byrds covered the song on their 1968 album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, with lead vocals sung by guitarist Roger McGuinn, although an alternate version featuring Gram Parsons on lead vocals was released on The Byrds box set in 1990.[1][2] The song was also covered by Taj Mahal on his 1968 album The Natch'l BluesJerry Lee Lewis covered the song in 1972 and did a blues ballad arrangement.

ska version of the song was recorded by Peter Tosh And The Wailers in 1965. Later a reggae version of "You Don't Miss Your Water" was recorded by Tosh alone for his 1976 debut album, Legalize It. Tosh was famous for being a founding member of The Wailers, one of the most influential roots reggae bands, along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer. His version of the song, which lasts for over six minutes, is highlighted by a guitar solo midway through the track. The lyrics and music were rearranged from the original, William Bell version by Tosh and Wailer.

Brian Eno covered the song in 1988 for the soundtrack album to the film Married to the Mob.[3] Eno's version is a languid piece, with guitars,harmonized vocals and synthesisers, which makes slight alterations to the lyrics (e.g., changing "But now you've left me/Oh, how I cry" to "But when you left me/Oh, how I cried") and replaces the second chorus with a repeat of the first.[4]

The song was also covered by the Jayhawks with The Indigo Girls on their 2000 compilation "Colombia Records Radio Hour."

The Pink Snowflakes covered the song as a b-side to their 2013 7" single release "She's The Planet".

The Triffids' version[edit]Edit

"You Don't Miss Your Water (Till Your Well Runs Dry)"
Single by The Triffids
A-side "You Don't Miss Your Water"
B-side "Convent Walls"
Released August 1985
Format 7" Vinyl Single12" Vinyl Single

February 21 & 23, 1985 - Albert Studios Sydney

June 6 & 7, 1985 - Berwick Street Studios Soho London

Genre Folk rock
Length 6:10 (7")

12:14 (12")

Label White Hot / Mushroom
Writer(s) William Bell
Producer(s) The Triffids
The Triffids singles chronology
"Beautiful Waste"


"You Don't Miss Your Water (Till Your Well Runs Dry)"


"Wide Open Road"


"You Don't Miss Your Water" was also released as a single by the Australian folk rock group, The Triffids.[5][6] Their version appeared as a 7" Vinyl Single and a 12" Vinyl Single in August 1985. It was also available in Limited Edition Aquablue vinyl with cover artwork to accompany (aquablue replaced the grey of the original sleeve).

Track listing[edit]Edit

All songs written by David McComb unless noted.[7]

  1. "You Don't Miss Your Water (Till Your Well Runs Dry)" (William Bell)[7] - 2:50
  2. "Convent Walls" - 3:20
  3. "Beautiful Waste" (12" single only) - 3:20
  4. "You Don't Miss Your Water (Till Your Well Runs Dry)" [Instrumental] (William Bell)[7] (12" single only)[8]

Credited to:[6][9]

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