Don’t Know Much

“Don’t Know Much”- 1989

Music: Tom Snow, Barry Mann

Lyric: Cynthia Weil

Song History: “Don’t Know Much” achieved classic status as a duet by Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville for Ronstadt’s 1989 album “Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like The Wind”.  The title is a phrase from its refrain: I don’t know much, but I know I love you, and that may be all I need to know.

The song had a rich history prior to its success in 1989. It first appeared on Mann’s 1980 album, Casablanca. Bill Medley and Bette Midler (under the title “All I Need to Know”) then had minor chart successes with it in 1981 and 1983, respectively. In 1985, Audrey Landers recorded the song as “All I Need to Know” for her second album for the German market, Paradise Generation. Numerous other recordings exist as well. It was introduced to Ronstadt and Neville by Steve Tyrell. Co-produced by Tyrell and Peter Asher, it was released as a single in the U.S. in 1989, reaching #2 on the pop chart and #1 on both the adult contemporary chart and pop sales charts. The single was certified gold. In the UK, the song peaked at #2 on the British pop chart. The song reached the top of the singles charts in Ireland. “Don’t Know Much” won the 1990 Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and was nominated for Song of the Year.

Author’s Note: Composers don’t collaborate with one another very often. It’s a tricky proposition because the finding of musical phrases can be intensely private. In this case however, we both brought some music to the table, allowed ourselves to share them and the result was truly special. For me however,  the great strength of the song lies in Cynthia Weil’s beautiful lyric. Like the great lyricists before her she wrote to melody. I wish there were more like her.

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