You Don't Miss Your Water

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"You Don't Miss Your Water"
Single by William Bell
from the album The Soul of a Bell
B-side"Formula of Love"
Released1961 (1961)
Format7-inch single
StudioStax Recording, Memphis, Tennessee
GenreR&B, Soul
LabelStax (S-116)
Songwriter(s)William Bell
William Bell singles chronology
"You Don't Miss Your Water"
"Any Other Way"

"You Don't Miss Your Water" is a soul song and the debut single written and recorded by American singer William Bell. It was released by Stax Records in 1961. It is Bell's signature song and best known recording.


The song was written while Bell was in New York, playing with the Phineas Newborn Orchestra, with lyrics that were not inspired by a lost love, but by Bell's own feelings of homesickness. Bell recorded the song upon returning to Memphis, believing that he was making a demo. However, the recording was released as the B-side of the lesser known Bell single "Formula of Love". It was only after DJ's flipped the record over and began playing the B-side instead of the A-side that sales started to pick up.

The song did not chart in the Billboard R&B charts (southern U.S. records were often either not given enough attention by the chart compilers or lacked the slick production of the more popular Detroit and uptown soul outlets), although it did reach #95 on the pop charts. Since then, the track has gone on to become a Southern soul classic. The song was also released on Bell's 1967 album The Soul of a Bell, along with the original version of "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man", which was more famously covered by Aretha Franklin.

Lyrically, the song's theme revolves around the singer's confession of his unfaithfulness to his lover and, now that she's gone, his realization of his foolishness.

But when you left me
And said bye-bye
I missed my water
My well ran dry

— William Bell

Other renditions[edit]

"You Don't Miss Your Water" was covered by Otis Redding and released on his critically acclaimed 1965 album, Otis Blue. The Byrds covered the song on their 1968 album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, with lead vocals sung by guitarist Roger McGuinn, although an alternate version featuring Gram Parsons on lead vocals was released on The Byrds box set in 1990.[1][2] The song was also covered by Taj Mahal on his 1968 album The Natch'l Blues. Jerry Lee Lewis covered the song in 1972 and did a blues ballad arrangement.

A ska version of the song was recorded by Peter Tosh And The Wailers in 1965. Later a reggae version of "You Don't Miss Your Water" was recorded by Tosh alone for his 1976 debut album, Legalize It. Tosh was famous for being a founding member of The Wailers, one of the most influential roots reggae bands, along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer. His version of the song, which lasts for over six minutes, is highlighted by a guitar solo midway through the track. The lyrics and music were rearranged from the original, William Bell version by Tosh and Wailer.

Brian Eno covered the song in 1988 for the soundtrack album to the film Married to the Mob.[3] Eno's version is a languid piece, with guitars, harmonized vocals and synthesizers, which makes slight alterations to the lyrics (e.g., changing "But now you've left me/Oh, how I cry" to "But when you left me/Oh, how I cried") and replaces the second chorus with a repeat of the first.[4]

The Triffids' version[edit]

"You Don't Miss Your Water (Till Your Well Runs Dry)"
YouDontMissYour Water.jpg
Single by The Triffids
B-side"Convent Walls"
ReleasedAugust 1985 (1985-08)
Format7-inch single, 12-inch single
  • February 21 & 23, 1985
  • June 6 & 7, 1985
  • Albert Studios, Sydney
  • Berwick Street, Soho, London
GenreFolk rock
  • 6:10 (7-inch)
  • 12:14 (12-inch)
LabelWhite Hot / Mushroom
Songwriter(s)William Bell
Producer(s)The Triffids
The Triffids singles chronology
"Beautiful Waste"
"You Don't Miss Your Water (Till Your Well Runs Dry)"
"Wide Open Road"

"You Don't Miss Your Water" was also released as a single by the Australian folk rock group, The Triffids.[5][6] Their version appeared as a 7-inch single and a 12-inch single in August 1985. It was also available in Limited Edition Aquablue vinyl with cover artwork to accompany (aquablue replaced the grey of the original sleeve).

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by David McComb unless noted.[7]

  1. "You Don't Miss Your Water (Till Your Well Runs Dry)" (William Bell)[7] - 2:50
  2. "Convent Walls" - 3:20
  3. "Beautiful Waste" (12" single only) - 3:20
  4. "You Don't Miss Your Water (Till Your Well Runs Dry)" [Instrumental] (William Bell)[7] (12" single only)[8]



  1. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. pp. 269–270. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
  2. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 442. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
  3. ^ "Allmusic Entry for Married to the Mob soundtrack album". Retrieved 2008-10-11.
  4. ^ "Brian Eno You Don't Miss Your Water lyrics on Yahoo! Music".
  5. ^ McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'The Triffids'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 17 April 2004. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
  6. ^ a b Holmgren, Magnus; Skjefte, Morten; Warnqvist, Stefan; Simonetti, Vince. "The Triffids". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 28 July 2002. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
  7. ^ a b c "Australasian Performing Right Association". APRA. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
  8. ^ "You Don't Miss Your Water (Till Your Well Runs Dry) 12" single track listing". Triffids fan website. Retrieved 2009-09-13.
  9. ^ "Discogs entry on "You Don't Miss Your Water Till Your Well Runs Dry"". Retrieved 2007-12-14.

External links[edit]