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Artist: Anita Ward
Label: Juana Records
Songwriter: Frederick Knight
Yes, some people think that the hit disco song Ring My Bell was recorded by Blondie and sung by the great Debra Harry. In fact, if you search for “blondie ring my bell lyrics” you will get a result that lists Blondie as the artist with the original lyrics for the song. Those lyrics should be attributed to songwriter Frederick Douglas Knight, who wrote the song intending it for eleven-year-old singer Stacy Lattisaw, who fell through. The song was given to Anita Ward, a gospel singer and, at the time, substitute schoolteacher.
The song was originally more suited for a young girl to sing. It was modified for Ward to sound more adult. Even so, the lyrics are merely suggestive and not overtly sexual as the producer wanted to protect Anita Ward’s clean-cut Christian image. Frederick Knight, songwriter, producer, and president of Juana Records discovered her when her manager sent him some photos, demos, and other materials. Knight agreed to cut some records with her. He said of the song: “It was then a teeny-bopper type of song, about kids talking on the telephone.”
The tune was an afterthought for Ward and was not originally intended to be recorded. Disco certainly wasn’t on the list. However, after recording a number of slower songs, Knight realized they needed an up-tempo tune. He chose Ring My Bell since Stacy Lattisaw had signed to another label.
Released in 1979, the song was a smash hit, reaching no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on June 16, 1979, and spending 18 weeks on the chart. It was Ward’s only top 40 hit. She scored a minor hit later the same year with Don’t Drop My Love, which peaked at number 87. The album, Songs of Love, sold very well, though.
As for being a disco queen, Ward was nothing of the sort. She described herself as a naive and shy little church girl. She didn’t drink and she didn’t smoke. What’s more, she had never even stepped foot in a disco. She certainly was nothing like the sultry Debra Harry.
A close listen should reveal, of course, that Ward is not Harry, not to mention the music, which is nothing like the sort of arrangement that Blondie would have used. However, there is something about the vocal styling of the chorus, “you can ring my bell, ring my bell” that calls Debra Harry to mind and I’m not surprised that people think it was a Blondie song.
Another factor may be the two ‘telephone’ oriented songs that Blondie actually recorded. Hanging on the Telephone was released one year prior and the iconic Call Me was released only one year later, in 1980. Since Anita Ward was an unknown artist with only one hit song, the Blondie connection is probably a type of confabulation.
Anita Ward recorded two other albums, Sweet Surrender, also in 1979, and Wherever There’s Love in 1989. Ring My Bell has been covered by several artists, including Blood Sisters, Collette, and Tori Amos.