First Listen

New Music from an Architect of Memphis Soul

Don Bryant was a top songwriter at Hi Records in the ’60s and ’70s. Now almost 80, he’s releasing some of his own songs for the first time

Photo: Lawrence Matthews

“Music’s been my love since I was a child,” says Don Bryant, who has been making music for more than half a century. The Memphis songwriter started his career as a performer with Hi Records, releasing a single full-length album in 1969, Precious Soul, before becoming one of the label’s top songwriters, penning hits for its other acts. “I always enjoyed writing songs, getting into how people feel about a certain thing,” he says. “Would I feel the same way? Could I write what they might be feeling? Any time an idea hit, I would jot it down.” Some of Bryant’s best-known work—including the hit “I Can’t Stand the Rain”—was written for Ann Peebles, who released her first record with the label in 1969 and married Bryant in 1974. But Bryant went on to be credited on hundreds of tracks, including numbers cut by Etta James, Solomon Burke, and Albert King.

Now 78, Bryant is finally back in the spotlight himself. In 2017, he released Don’t Give Up On Love, his first full-length album since his 1969 debut. Now, he’s back with You Make Me Feel, a ten-song release on which Bryant approaches some of those great songs he wrote for other artists, such as “99 Pounds” and “Cracked Up Over You,” in the studio for the first time, as well as reprising a few numbers from his brief run as a performer. “These were some of my favorite songs,” he says of the tracks he chose for You Make Me Feel. “I go around just humming ‘em.” 

Today, G&G is proud to exclusively premiere “I Die a Little Each Day,” a song written by Bryant and released by Otis Clay in 1973. Backed by the Hi Rhythm Section, this is the first time Bryant has recorded the song himself, and it already feels like a classic. Listen to the song below. You Make Me Feel is set for release on June 19 via the Mississippi-based Fat Possum Records, and is available for pre-order now