"Tell It Like It Is" is a song written by George Davis and Lee Diamond and originally recorded and released in 1966 by Aaron Neville. In 2004, the song was ranked #381 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[1]


 [hide*1 Original version

Original version[edit]Edit

In 1966, Aaron Neville recorded and released the original version of "Tell It Like It Is" on his album also entitled Tell It Like It Is (Par-Lo Records). In November 1966, the track was issued as a single which peaked in early 1967 at #1 on the US R&B chart and #2 on the US Billboard Hot 100.[2] the personnel on the original recording included George Davis arranging and playing Baritone Sax, Emory Thomas on trumpet, Deacon John on guitar, Alvin Red Tyler on tenor sax, Willie Tee played piano and June Gardner on drums.

Select cover versions[edit]Edit

Since Aaron Neville's original 1966 version, the song has been covered by numerous artists including the following:

  • 1967: Otis Redding and Carla Thomas covered the song on their 1967 album entitled King & Queen.
  • 1967: Percy Sledge covered the track on his 1967 album, The Percy Sledge Way.
  • 1967: The South African band, The Flames, covered it on their album, "Burning Soul!"
  • 1967: Dallas Frazier covered it on his second album "Tell it like it is".
  • 1968: Archie Campbell and Lorene Mann, on their 1968 album of the same name. This version peaked at number 31 on the country singles charts.
  • 1969: George Benson covered the song on his 1969 album of the same name.
  • 1971: Nina Simone released a rendition of the song on her 1971 album entitled Here Comes The Sun
  • 1976: John Wesley Ryles released the song as a single in 1976 which reached #83 on the US Country chart.
  • 1976: Pop singer Andy Williams released a single of the track in 1976 which peaked at #72.
  • 1976: Freddy Fender released the track on his 1978 album titled Swamp Gold.
  • 1980: Heart released the song as a single in 1980 which reached #8 in the United States.
  • 1989: Billy Joe Royal released a version of the song as a single in 1989 which reached #2 on the US Country chart.
  • 1989: Appearing on the album entitled Let It Roll, actor Don Johnson released the track as a single in 1989 throughout Europe with the highest peaking at #2 on the German Singles chart.
  • 1997: Saxophonist Michael Lington covered the song on his self-titled, debut album.[3]
  • 2002: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band with Robert Randolph covered the song on The Dirty Dozen's 2002 album, Medicated Magic.
  • 2010: Michael McDonald covered the track on his 2010 album titled The Voice of Michael McDonald.

Other songs with the same title[edit]Edit

In 1958, Little Willie John composed and released a different song with the same title. Additionally, both Tracy Chapman and Lightnin' Hopkins each have written and released an unrelated song with the same title.

Chart performance[edit]Edit

Aaron Neville[edit]Edit

Chart (1966) Peak


Canadian RPM Top Singles 96
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks 2
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 2
U.S. Billboard Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles 1

Billy Joe Royal[edit]Edit

Chart (1989) Peak


Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[4] 2
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[5] 2

Year-end charts[edit]Edit

Chart (1989) Position
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[6] 36
US Country Songs (Billboard)[7] 51
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