That’s Him/You Don’t Know Me

Maybe I’m late to the party on this one, but while I was cleaning the house the other day, Ray Charles came round on the iPod singing “You Don’t Know Me.” And I’ll be Connie Frikkin Hopper if the first half of the verse of “You Don’t Know Me” isn’t nearly identical to the first part of the verse of “That’s Him.”

I have no conclusion to draw from this. I certainly have no reason to think it’s anything other than coincidence. In fact, it’s more interesting it if it is coincidental, because that means there are at least two writers out there who stumbled on the same thought and built from it songs that lots and lots of people responded to.

Hum it … it’s almost like an incantation, the way it weaves the melody into the gentle descent of the passing tones from the I-chord to, to the vi VI7, and then down to the ii and then another slow fall to the V7. Maybe some music theorists or musicologists or neurologists or some kind of someone can jump in here and help explain what’s going on, but there seems to be something almost primal about the seemingly intrinsic appeal that many melodic progressions from one chords to minor-sixths have. Or maybe I’m the only one who finds them captivating and enthralling. In which case, is my shrink in the house?

For “You Don’t Know Me”/”That’s Him,” the structurally similar musical phrases of their opening bars seem almost to release an ache derived from equal parts nostalgia, regret, longing, memory, and something like dismay … which is appropriate for both songs, though in different ways. Both Charles and Kim Hopper sing the lines at this point in a way that drags out the syllables and elongates the phrasings to accentuate the sense that the song is pulling us along slowly, difficulty, but inexorably, toward some important realization that would have remained at best partially grasped if you hadn’t groped half-sighted down this path: You don’t know me. That’s him. Yes, yes … ah, ok, now I see.

It makes me giggly to stumble on to these kinds of unlooked for symmetries (I actually shouted over the vacuum when I was finally able to figure out what was going on) - intertextual moments, we called them, in grad school (I know … I know). If I hadn’t heard Ray Charles, it never would have occurred to me to think so seriously about the I-vii-viVI7 movement, and hearing it, thinking about it, picking out the chords on the piano … it reminds all over again why I love to write about this stuff so much. For just a second, I get to participate in the aesthetic mastery of the world around me, marshal it for a purpose that feels grander than the self, but without overtaxing my very shallow well of musical ability.

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  1. Musicscribe Blog » Another Hoppers/The Ride Similarity on 01 Sep 2008 at 12:52 am

    […] Harrison at recently brought to light the similarity between the opening lines and chord structure of the Ray Charles classic “You […]


  1. Trent wrote:

    My wife is the master of “this song sounds like…” If you stop and listen to the melody of a lot of SG songs, many of them sound like either another SG song or a secular song. I think a songwriter has so many other songs that he has experienced in his life that it is virtually impossible not to lift something from some other tune. (Example: The opening line from Mark Bishop’s “What Are We Gonna Do About These Mean, Mean People” sounds like James Taylor’s “Whenever I See Your Smiling Face, I Have To Smile Myself”). Songwriters try not to mimic or copy anybody else’s work, because they want their own work to be completely original. A valid argument could be made, though, that nearly all songs today are at some point copies of part of another song. It really hurts to say that, but it’s the truth. The sheer volume of songs, secular and gospel, dictate it.

  2. averyfinelurker wrote:

    The Hoppers’ Jerusalem and Carly Simon’s Let The River Run are another pair that might make ya go hmmmmmmm… call that a coincidence and I’ll call you crazy. It might make for an interesting study to see how many SG songs “unintentionally” sound like a secular song.

  3. Revpaul wrote:

    I think you meant to say Ray Frikkin Charles and Connie Hopper. :)

  4. Grave Digger wrote:

    Reminds me of the story Mosie Lister told a few years ago. . .

    JD Sumner came up to him and said, “Mosie, I’ve written a new song!”

    Mosie replied, “That’s great. What’s it to the tune of?”

  5. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    Ask Jeff Stice about Ray Charles!

    Excerpted from the this article back in 2007 while The Triumphant Quartet was at the theater:

    “Each group member performs a crowd-pleasing moment in the show. Stice dazzles the audience with his piano solo segment featuring tunes by two of his biggest musical inspirations, Floyd Cramer and Ray Charles, as well as a standing-ovation rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorusâ”

  6. Terry wrote:

    Love your blog; I especially enjoy your musings on the ‘technical’ side of musical critique. It’s one thing say “I like this-or-that, or so-and-so can’t sing her way out of tent meeting, but when you offer a critique, good or bad, you back it up with the technical aspects to support your opinion. Facts and data, plain and simple. That being said, there’s obviously an aesthetic component based on one’s personal tastes, so whether I agree with your opinions or not, I always enjoy reading them. Do keep up the great work…. As for the epiphany about “You Don’t Know Me”/”That’s Him”, I have one word for you. Serendipity.
    Main Entry: ser·en·dip·i·ty
    Pronunciation: \-ˈdi-pə-tē\
    Function: noun
    Etymology: from its possession by the heroes of the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip
    Date: 1754
    : the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.

  7. Steven wrote:

    Trent- spot on with the James Taylor comparison..i’ve thought that too.

    If you remember the JBIF song “Mad Mary” that Stephanie Brown sang, it sounds VERY similar to kelly clarkson’s “miss independent”

  8. quartet-man wrote:

    I do that too (even if just a snippet sounds like another.)

  9. GC wrote:

    There are writers and there are composers and a very select few can do both well. It is quite easy to come up with a few lines of verse and put them to something that has already been published. The problem I have is when someone takes a secular song and changes a couple of words to turn it “Inspirational” or so to say.

  10. mp3guy wrote:

    Not being a Hoppers fan, *gasp* I’ll at least thank you for encouraging me to dig thru the old iPod and find some Ray Charles cuts to start my morning. He’s on a playlist I rarely listen to, but it’s been a fun listen this morning

  11. cynical one wrote:

    King Solomon must have been right, at least in this topic: “There’s nothing new under the sun.”

    Yes, as songwriters, we try to be as original as we can, but if we’re listening to as much music as we can (as we should, if we want to be the best at our craft as we can) we’re bound to be influenced by something we’ve heard, whether it’s a chord progression, a melody line, a phrase, or whatever.

    I still enjoy the story Bill Gaither used to tell about a song they had written that used the opening theme from some classical piece. Their son Benji came home from school one day, having been exposed to said classical piece for the first time, and announced someone had stolen his parents’ tune.

    Is imitation still the greatest form of flattery?

  12. Cliff Cerce wrote:

    Compare John Stalling’s great song “Learning to Lean” and Gov Jimmie Davis’ “Someone to Care”. There are many such examples.

    A songwriter friend of mine once told me he was shocked one day to hear the verse of song that became famous several years earlier (that had been written by one of his friends) and how it bore an uncanny resemblance to the verse he had written to one of his most popular songs just a short time after the first song became well-known.

    He was horrified. He certainly had heard his friend’s song many times, but never consciously “stole” his melody or was aware of the similarity. But, he noticed it years after both were written and came into popularity, and that egg couldn’t then become unscrambled and put back into its shell.

    Amazingly, I didn’t see the similarity between the two songs until he mentioned it, and I then couldn’t believe I didn’t notice it on my own. But, as far as I know, no one has ever made the correlation in all of the many decades that have gone by since the two songs were written.

    My friend assures me it was totally unintentional and the high ethics of the two writers and the longevity of their friendship would prevent any suspicion that a melody line was intentionally “stolen”. And, I suspect Songwriter 2 has already has already ‘fessed up to his friend Songwriter 1, and they both probably had a good laugh about what happened over 35 years ago.

    I remember reading in one of my now-dust covered music theory textbooks that new styles of music and even chord progressions that have come into common usage have stemmed historically from periods of time when the songs within a genre began to “all sound the same”. After all, in the earlier days of our Industry’s music, there was a limited number of sensible melodic combinations that could be put to 16 bars of I, IV, and V chords.

    I remember that Mosie Lister jazzed things up with the III and VI chords, and was greatly criticized by some for his new “worldly” music, but “Goodbye World, Goodbye” took off in a flash - worldly and sinful though it was to some back then.

    And, the music changed as a result in the days that followed - as it has many times since in all genres of Christian and other music.

    It is surprising that these similarities do not happen more often, given the self-imposed limitations of the chord structure of our music.

  13. Janet wrote:

    Several years ago, I attended a songwriting workshop that was led by Don Moen. He told the story of sitting at his piano at home one day, picking out a new tune. He was very pleased with his progress until his son walked through the room and said, “Great tune, Dad - isn’t that from “The Lion King?”
    Personally, I don’t listen to current pop or CCM precisely because all of the songs sound the same to me. Where are all the Neil Diamonds of the world?

  14. Kyle wrote:

    Listen to the chord progression on “Where No One Stands Alone.” The Statesmen’s version is very straight, I, IV, V. I don’t know if they did it a different way later, but by the time the GVB got a hold of it, they were adding all kinds of flavorful chords. Major thirds, minor sixes….much more colorful song.

  15. quartet-man wrote:

    One thing that surprised me too was the song Mark and Jerry Trammell wrote called “When I Stand In The Presence” Although not exact, not only is the melody similar, but some of the lyrics are too to the song “Ten Thousand Years.” “When I come to the end of my journey and I meet the one who gave his life for me.” I am going by memory from hearing it years ago, but my ears perked up when I heard it then.

  16. Gayla wrote:

    I am really enjoying this thread. This phenomenon has always intrigued me. It reminds me of one year at GOGR when they had an “Up Close and Personal” afternoon event with Mosie Lister where the crowd could ask him questions. He related a story about how years ago he finished a song, and thought it was going to be a real winner. However, after he completed the entire song and “sang it to himself” all the way through, he realized he had simply written new lyrics to “Achy Breaky Heart”! We laughed until we cried!

  17. BUICK wrote:

    GC, do you mean, for instance, “Danny Boy” and Dotty Rambo’s adaptation, “He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need”? I’m sure there was no intent to deceive anyone into believing she composed the melody - just taking a popular package and putting new content into it.

  18. GC11 wrote:

    Every delta blues song I’ve ever heard is the same song written over and over…so, at least its not just gospel.

  19. Cliff Cerce wrote:

    I just hung up the phone, talking to my good friend Bill Burns, author of “That’s Him”. He couldn’t get his mind around how the Ray Charles’ tune started, and I helped him out with the answer - “Like yours.”

    All these years, and Ray Charles never sent Bill a dime of royalty money.

    Needless to say, Bill was flabbergasted to learn of the similarity.

    Years ago, Bob MacKenzie, of The Benson Company, was looking through one of the many notebooks Gary Paxton had of unfinished, partially finished and just finished songs. One caught his eye because of the strong lyrics and he asked Gary when he wrote it. Gary looked at it and told Bob he had no idea when, and had no recollection of ever writing it.

    I’ve engineered several of Gary’s productions and have gotten to look into those notebooks of his quite a few times myself. Much of their content was scribbled there in the middle of the night and is barely legible - unless you can read Paxtonese.

    He writes the melodic line in his books too - writing the scale number of the note of the melody. An arrow up to a number (such as 5) means go from the last note up to a 5, while an arrow down to a 5 means go from the last note down to a 5. So, he has recorded the melodic line as well as the lyrics in his notebooks.

    Bob asked Gary to sing the song to him, and he did - following his unique notation system. Gary agreed with Bob that it was a good song, so “He Was There All The Time” was soon published and recorded over 200 times.

    Gary just told me recently that either the Holy Spirit so impressed the song on him that it was totally beyond his memory of writing it, or he inadvertantly stole it. Since he had no memory of writing it (along with the other 2000 unfinished songs in those many notebooks), he was afraid for years that someone would come along claiming to be the author, and he’d be in trouble - because he couldn’t remember writing it.

    But, no one ever came forward - and he knows he never tried to steal a song - so he has finally accepted the fact that he must have written it.

    This is the principle we are talking about - sort of in reverse.

  20. Deron wrote:


    The first time I heard “When I Stand In The Presence,” I actually thought it was “Ten Thousand Years,” until about halfway through the first verse.

  21. quartet-man wrote:

    17, I suspect they are talking adaptations (like He Looked Beyond My Faults), but where someone takes a song like Let Me Be There, If You Love Me Let Me Know etc. and changes enough to make the secular song a gospel version. That isn’t the same thing being talked about on this thread, but I think it inspired the thought. Other times people have taken Achy Breaky Heart and changed it (I think). The Oaks changed I Believe In Music as I Believe in Jesus although after Duane met the writer was sorry they had not sung it as is. On a related topic, the Easters did the Tanya Tucker performed song (with Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz), “I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love” and sang it, but I remember them saying they change the phrase “said the man to his Lord” to The Lord. Less poetic, I think (the other two verses in the original verses at least were mother to her child and man to his wife), but the word “his” bothered them because there is only ONE Lord. I understand that thought, but I don’t think Paul Overstreet meant to imply anything differently.

  22. Auke wrote:

    Excellent writing…amazing….i’m listening to both songs now…remarkable simularity.

    Loved the Genius for years…Connie Frikkin Hopper hahahaha….


  23. jbb wrote:

    I can’t think of the Greater Vision song that is out now, but, every time a friend of mine hears it, at one point in the song she shouts “Thank God I’m A Country Boy”. I had never thought about Learning to Lean and Someone to Care, and we sing them both.

  24. Italian Ice wrote:

    Hey it happens, if you have kids, there is a “muppet” like cartoon on educational tv called “Big, Big, World” (I think) they live in a tree, anyway. The slow song at the beginning is so similiar to a song on Faith Hills butterfly album. Its scary. You will have to listen.

  25. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    Or something I’ve commented on before: Compare the verses of “Old Country Church” by J.D. Sumner with the hymn “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart.”

  26. Cliff Cerce wrote:

    The Imperials have revived Audrey Meier’s great song, “We’ve Got A Great Big Wonderful God”.

    It played in our home when our kids were little, as The Couriers, Blackwood Brothers and Cathedrals all did it years ago. My kids, then little, used to sing along - having fun singing this lyric to the song:

    “To pick us up when we stumble, We’re the Apple of His eye, Frosty the Snowman…..”

    They figured that out on their own.

  27. Craig wrote:

    Whenever we sing the hymn Whosoever Meaneth Me, I always get the theme to Hogan’s Heroes stuck in my head.

  28. Brett wrote:

    It’s the same thing with Mike & Kelli Bowling’s new song “A Miracle Today” with the section of the song that says I Know there are others that matches the same line and melody as “Please Come Down To Me” by Crabb Family

  29. joe wrote:

    #26: I swear I was just thinking the same thing a few days ago, humming to myself “We’ve got a great big wonderful God”, but somehow I ended up with Frosty the Snowman.

    #27: So true! Thanks for my laugh of the day.

  30. Wade wrote:

    wow is that Dr Joe swearing???

  31. Jeremy wrote:

    I think I heard JD saying once that he wrote the verses to The Old Country Church to the tune of Since Jesus Came Into My Heart on purpose. It was a way to get another old song, or at least melody, in there. I have a 5 DVD set of the Masters V with rare footage. 2 that are in the set are called The JD Sumner Story and the James Blackwood Story. I believe I heard him say it on one of those.

  32. quartet-man wrote:

    I could be wrong, but I think I heard J.D. didn’t realize he wrote the verses that way until someone pointed it out to him.

  33. Jeremy wrote:

    I will have to go back and listen to the DVD and see if it is on there. I am not totally 100% sure either.

  34. BrandonS wrote:

    Here’s the thing. When your a musician your one of two things. You’re either a clever thief or a genius. There’s not a lot of the latter out there. :)

  35. Joe wrote:

    Nah, Wade- that was little joe. I swear that I don’t swear.

  36. Gimme SGM wrote:

    LOL #35

  37. JCW wrote:

    I personally do not hear a great deal of similarity between the two songs mentioned in the original post. I will be glad to write out the chord chart for both songs, to prove my initial hesitation.

    I do see what Avery is saying though. As far as atmpospheric mood…yes, they both (I am speaking of his live version of the tune that was performed on the soundtrack to the movie) have the same “piano bar” type sound that is indicative of Ray’s acoustic type ballads…

    harmonic progressions are fairly different…as are the melodic lines, and rhythms

    —–However, being a ears are pretty fine tuned to subtle nuances and things of that nature…….So, I can DEF. hear why someone would think that the two are similar……I let my wife hear the song and she could see the comparison…..which I cant.

    Regardless how similar it may sound or not sound……. The circle of 5ths is constant…and there are only so many ways to change chords and put a song together…. It is not at all odd for songs to have brief glimpses of other tunes in them…….

    Listen to Mahler for example….. He quotes himself time and time again…from his symphonies to his lieder…. lots of repetition and use of similar chordal motion……. Mozart did this alot as well…… He on several occasions used familiar melodic lines from arias or piano works as the main theme for operatic overtures. You will hear this as well in Verdi, Wagner, Rossini….etc…….

    As far as Southern Gospel…. I do hear this a lot……Someone mentioned “Great Big Wonderful God”….oh yeah that absolutely has a tease of “Frosty the Snowman”—no wonder we all think it sounds so catchy……. Bill Gaithers music has always had a familiar—folky sound to it….at least to my ear…….

    No coincidence. A familiar progression…or even a glimpse of a familiar progression can do for a song what nothing else can…..It is a way of forcing something “new” into someones ear with greater ease……..

    “Beyond the Open Door” by the Vocal Band was VERY “pop” for the time it came out….However, at the tail end…they throw in “Where He Leads Me I Will Follow” right out of the Hymnal…and just like that….You have a hit…

    Oh well… I didn’t mean to beat a drum to death…. I just found the original post very insightful and wanted to comment…….

    Avery, thanks for your great topics!!

  38. Wade wrote:

    Ok BiG Joe that’s a relief!! I was going to be bummed.

    Hope ALL had a FUN Labor Day Weekend!!

  39. 2miles wrote:

    Years ago I wrote a little song with this chorus…

    I’m a winner either way, whether I go or whether I stay,
    You can’t tell me I’d be defeated if I died.
    And if I stay and all is well, to everyone my story I’ll tell,
    It’s plain to see that I would be a winner either way.

    Imagine my chagrin when a few years later I heard, what were practically my words (only slightly changed) coming through “The Gospel Greats” one Sunday morning…(that recording actually predated the Inspirations version)…you can only imagine how I felt when the Inspirations took the same song to #1…

    Talk about a missed opportunity…


  40. Trent wrote:

    #32, the group Standing Tall had that song “Winner Either Way” out long before the Inspirations.

  41. Glen Harlow wrote:

    “Winner Either Way” was written by Laura Colston. I first heard the song by the Kindlers, that recorded for the Eddie Crook Company in late 80’s, early 90’s.

  42. Deron wrote:

    Is Doug ever going to come back?

  43. 2miles wrote:

    #41 - Thanks for the info…that actually makes me feel better knowing it was actually written before I wrote my “song”. I always felt a little miffed that I “wrote” the song first…and someone else beat me to the punch…good song with a good message…

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