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Don Bryant Discusses New Album, Marriage and Love

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Memphis music critic Robert Gordon says that Don Bryant's life is a three-act drama. He sang gospel with his family as a child and became a songwriter as a teen writing scores of hits over two decades, including co-writing the 1974 hit "Can't Stand The Rain" made so famous by Ann Peebles, to whom Don Bryant is married. For the past 18 years or so, Don Bryant has been in act three, back in front of the microphone and in the recording studio.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUR LOVE IS TO BLAME")

DON BRYANT: (Singing) You make me feel like a man wants to feel when he’s getting all the love he can bear. Oh, I don’t have to look no further just knowing that you'll always be there. Nothing in my life is the same. Your love is to blame.

SIMON: Don Bryant's new album is called "You Make Me Feel." And he joins us now from his home in Memphis. Thanks so much for being with us.

BRYANT: It's my pleasure.

SIMON: We're listening to "Your Love Is To Blame," and I want to ask you about a really piercing line. Nothing in my life is the same. Your love is to blame. So it's in a good way, yes?

BRYANT: Yes, it is, very much so. The one that I had didn't work out, but when I found the right one, hey, I blame her for everything as far as my love is concerned.

SIMON: You've been together for 50 years or close to 50 years, I gather, right?

BRYANT: Oh, yes. Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I CAN'T STAND THE RAIN")

ANN PEEBLES: (Singing) I can't stand the rain against my window bringing back sweet memories. Hey, window pane...

SIMON: How did the two of you co-write "Can't Stand The Rain?"

BRYANT: Well, it's a little story behind it. We were on our way trying to get to a concert by Bobby Bland, I think it was. And it started raining now real, real, real hard. And I don't know if it was me or not at this point, but somebody said, I can't stand this rain - because we didn't - we wouldn't have a chance to go to the show. And most of the times when I heard a line that I thought was a good line, my mind would go into a writing mode. And that's exactly what it did. And we'd sit down at the piano and start coming up with the lines on the song and wrote that song that night.

SIMON: Wow.

BRYANT: We didn't go out. We wrote a song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I CAN'T STAND THE RAIN")

PEEBLES: (Singing) I can't stand the rain against my window bringing back sweet memories. I can't stand the rain against my window - just keeps on haunting me. Hey, rain...

SIMON: May I ask how your wife of 50 years, Ann Peebles, is doing?

BRYANT: She's doing OK. She's doing OK. And I'm thankful for that.

SIMON: She had to give up performing a few years ago, didn't she?

BRYANT: She did. She had a stroke, and it damaged her voice. And yeah, she had to give it up.

SIMON: Let's listen to a song that's on this album that's about a heartbreak, "Is It Over."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IS IT OVER")

BRYANT: (Singing) Is it over? Baby, please tell me. Don't just keep me hanging on. That's all I'm asking of you, girl, 'cause my heart just ain't that strong.

SIMON: Real life story?

BRYANT: Sometimes, you know, coming up, growing up in a neighborhood and school and different things, you know, you always fell in love with somebody, you know? And, sometimes, it didn't work out, you know? And when you've experienced those situations, you know, it can be a part of the story that you're trying to tell in the song.

SIMON: Not every song in this album is new. And I want to ask you about one that I guess you and Ann Peebles wrote in 1971.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "99 POUNDS")

BRYANT: (Singing) She's 25 lbs. of pure cane sugar in each and every kiss. You wouldn't know what I'm talking about if you never had loving like this...

SIMON: "99 Pounds." What's the story of this song?

BRYANT: Well, the story was Ann Peebles. She weighed 99 pounds.

SIMON: (Laughter) Aw.

BRYANT: When she came in and started at the studio recording, she weighed 99 pounds.

SIMON: What keeps a love story going for 50 years, Mr. Bryant?

BRYANT: Love. That's what keeps the story going, love, you know?

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: Coming up, you experience a lot of different situations falling in love, but you get something out of each one until you find that one that you really want, and you know it's going to be a great thing for you if you can pull this one together and make it stick (laughter).

SIMON: Don Bryant's new album is called "You Make Me Feel." What a pleasure talking to you. Thanks so much, Mr. Bryant.

BRYANT: All right. Thank you very much. You have a good one.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "99 POUNDS")

BRYANT: (Singing) She's 99 lbs. of natural born goodness, 99... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.