#1313: You Don’t Know by Jim Byrnes

Peak Month: September 1981
6 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG chart
Peak Position #15
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube.com: “You Don’t Know
You Don’t Know” ~ Sam & Dave (original version)
Lyrics: “You Don’t Know

James Thomas Kevin Byrnes was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1948. He lived in the north side of the city where one of the neighbourhood bars featured Ike and Tina Turner as the house band. Byrnes recalls when he was a teenager going to music clubs, he and his buddy were often the only white people in the place. “We never had any problems. We were too naïve, and had too much respect for the music and culture – they knew it, they could tell.” From the age of thirteen Jim Byrnes taught himself to play blues guitar. In 1964 he got a taste of a professional life as a musician when he was paid to perform. In the rich blues scene in St. Louis, Byrnes was able to appear onstage with John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal and Muddy Waters and others. In 1964 he also appeared in stage productions with a St. Louis repertory company.

In 1968 Jim Byrnes was drafted into the United States Army and served for a year in the Vietnam War. He moved to Canada in the early 70s and was in a serious accident in 1972 outside of Parksville, when he was struck by a passing vehicle. He lost both his legs. In 1980 he played himself as a party singer in the film No Looking Back. The following year he released his debut studio album Burning. A track from the album, “You Don’t Know”, was released as a single.

“You Don’t Know” was co-written by David Porter and Issac Hayes. The songwriting duo wrote numbers of songs, most notably “Soul Man”, “Hold On! I’m Comin’” and “I Thank You” for Sam & Dave. They also wrote hit R&B records for Carla Thomas, Johnny Taylor, Rufus Thomas, William Bell, James and Bobby Purify, and Mabel John. David Porter was born in 1941 in Memphis, the ninth of twelve children. He was a close friend and high school classmate of Maurice White, the founder of Earth, Wind and Fire. One afternoon in the late ‘50s, Porter walked across the street from the grocery store he was employed to the office of Satellite Records. He wanted to know if they’d be interested in recording some soul music, in addition to the country music they were known for. This opened the door to a relationship with Satellite and then Stax Records. Porter also wrote some minor hits for Earth, Wind and Fire, and Lou Rawls. Porter also recorded a number of his own albums with Stax between 1965 and 1974, while writing songs for other recording artists. In 2005 Porter was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2015, Rolling Stone named Porter (together with Issac Hayes) at #75 on its list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.

Issac Hayes was born in 1942 in Covington, Tennessee, 42 miles from Memphis. He was the child of a sharecropper and grew up working on farms. In his childhood he taught himself to play the organ, flute and saxophone. In his late teens he was a paid performer in R&B and blues clubs in Memphis. He went on to become a session musician for Stax Records. Hayes met David Porter in 1963 and the pair began to write songs. In addition to co-writing songs with David Porter, Hayes wrote his number one hit from 1971, “Theme From Shaft”, an Academy Award winner for Best Original Song and Best Music in 1972. The album Shaft won a Grammy Award in 1972. In addition to Shaft, Hayes first won acclaim for Hot Buttered Soul in 1969. He won a Grammy again in 1973 for his album Black Moses. He also wrote songs for Dionne Warwick and Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. Between 1968 and 1995 Issac Hayes recorded over twenty studio albums. As an actor, Hayes appeared in nearly fifty TV and film productions, most notably in 136 episodes of South Park (1997-2006) doing the voice of Chef.

In 1966 Sam & Dave recorded “You Don’t Know Like I Know” in 1965. Though it was a minor hit on the Billboard Hot 100 at #90, it peaked on the Billboard Hot Rhythm and Blues Singles chart at #7. The song was subsequently recorded by Chuck Jackson, The Tremeloes, Peter Frampton, John Farnham, Steve Alaimo, The Barkays, Arthur Conley and others.

“You Don’t Know” draws on two poetic devices – simile and metaphor – to convey what the love interest means to the singer. A metaphor asserts that something is simultaneously another thing, though not literally. In “You Don’t Know” a metaphor is used to compare the woman in this man’s life with water, a cup of tea. In this way the singer seeks to convey an understanding about the refreshing nature of consuming water, or a cup of tea, to the way the woman in his life is similarly refreshing. He also uses a simile to liken her to a miracle.

Examples of other metaphors in popular music include “Hound Dog” (Big Mama Thornton – 1953 – and Elvis Presley – 1956) where the singer berates his significant other, comparing them to a dog that won’t leave them alone. In Katy Perry’s “Firework” she sees her lover as unique, special, and capable of doing great things. In the song “Titanium” by David Guetta with vocals by Sia, she compares herself to one of the strongest metals. She is showing that no matter what you throw at her, or how much you try to knock her down, you won’t succeed.

Some examples of simile include Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone”, where he compares a woman who has fallen on hard times to being “a complete unknown… like a rolling stone.” In Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” they see friendship as an emotional bridge when there are problems. And in Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind” the singer compares a person’s life to that of a candle.

David Byrnes “You Don’t Know” peaked at #15 in Vancouver (BC). On the strength of his debut album, in 1982 Byrnes received a nomination for a Juno Award for Best New Artist. In 1987 Byrnes released his second studio album I Turned My Nights Into Days. 

In the early 90s Byrnes helped fundraise to build the Deep Cove Theatre on the North Shore of Greater Vancouver. It opened in 1991. Over the years Byrnes has made many appearances at this cozy venue.

In 1996 Jim Byrnes won a Juno Award for Blues Album of the Year for That River, his third album. He repeated that honor wining a Juno in 2007 for House of Refuge, and in 2011 for Everywhere West. In 2006 Jim Byrnes was awarded Male Vocalist of the Year at the Maple Blues Awards was also honoured at the 2006. He has also been awarded the Contemporary Singer of the Year award in both 2006 and 2009 at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. He also was nominated for a Juno Award in 2004 for Fresh Horses. And in 2010 he won the Western Canadian Music Awards Blues Album of the Year for My Walking Stick. And in 2014 he won the Maple Blues Award for Best Male Vocalist for his album I Hear The Wind in the Wires. To date, Jim Byrnes has released ten studio albums, the most recent being Long Hot Summer Days in 2017.

Since 1987 Jim Byrnes has been cast in numerous television shows including as Dan “Lifeguard” Burroughs in Wiseguy (1987-1990) 19 episodes in the G.I. Joe TV series (1990-91), 88 episodes in Highlander (1993-1998) as Joe Dawson.  He has also provided voice for animated characters in nine different animated TV shows. Byrnes has also appeared in fifteen films and over a dozen made-for-TV movies, between 1980 and 2013. His more recent acting work includes the role of Gregory Magnus in Sanctuary (2008-2011).  In 2013 he played Sgt. Major Atticus Reid in the TV show Copper.   

In 2018 Byrnes performed with the Sojourners at a concert organized by the North Island Concert Society. On his website it states “Jim Byrnes plays 150 dates a year in North America and Europe.” Byrnes says of his audiences at live performances that some are there who’ve seen every episode of Wiseguy and Highlander. Others in the audience only know his music and “have no idea” he’s also had an acting career. Jim Byrnes has an upcoming show with the Downchild Blues Band at the River Rock Casino in Richmond (BC) on October 17, 2019.

September 7, 2019
Ray McGinnis

Jim Byrnes bio,” Jimbyrnes.com.
Jeremy Shepherd, “Jim Byrnes Jams through Long Hot Summer Days: Bluesman Plays Tunes from Album in Deep Cove Shows,” North Shore News, January 18, 2018.
Jim Byrnes’s Blues Brighten Deep Cove Theatre,” Georgia Straight, January 24, 2018.
#75: Issac Hayes and David Porter,” 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time, Rolling Stone, December 14, 2015.
Tim Arnold, “Heart and Soul: Memphis Gets Its Mojo Back,” Huffington Post, May 1, 2017.

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.

One response to “You Don’t Know by Jim Byrnes”

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