“Ah! Leah!” by Donnie Iris
“Ah! Leah!” did end up being inspired by a real-life woman named Leah who Donnie Iris described as being “a very pretty girl”, but she was not someone who he personally dated. It just so happened that the hook of this track came out being centered on the phrase “ah Leah”, which reminded him of that said lady, whom he then used as its inspiration.
So the lyrics are not to be taken literally per se, as in speaking to the vocalist’s personal life, as with – it can perhaps be said – most love songs from this era.
And even classifying this as a love song may be mislabeling it. We are made well aware of the fact that the vocalist has a thing for Leah, the addressee and vice versa. But the thesis sentiment features him coming off as if he feels they will not be an item much longer.
Indeed the second verse clearly insinuates that he’s under the impression she’s already messing around with another guy. And the phrase “here we go again”, as found in the chorus, solidifies the notion that this romance is one in which discontent has become normalized.
It is also implied later on that in the “minds” of both the vocalist and addressee, this is a relationship that was never meant to be. But it’s like their hearts prevailed instead. So the further implication is Donnie recognizing that reality, i.e. there existing a natural incompatibility between them, as being the basis of this romance being on the verge of falling apart.
Conclusively, this is a deceptively-complex song for one that is so repetitive. We sometimes come across heartbreak tracks wordier than this one that don’t do as detailed of a job of explaining the situation at hand. But all cleverness aside, what it ultimately boils down to is the vocalist coming to the firm understanding that his relationship with Leah is a doomed one.
In the 1960s and into the mid-1970s, Donnie Iris was part of a group known as The Jaggerz, who did drop one solid hit, 1970’s “The Rapper”. A bit down the line he joined Wild Cherry during that band’s waning days, i.e. after they had already dropped their signature tune, 1976’s “Play That Funky Music“.
In 1980, Donnie began dropping his own albums, beginning with “Back on the Streets”, which was released on July 15th of that year. And as deemed by Midwest Records, the label behind the project, “Ah! Leah!” served as its lead single.
To note, whereas Donnie Iris may be far from a household name, he does have 11 solo studio albums under his belt and has released such projects well into the 21st century.
But as with The Jaggerz and Wild Cherry, he too is akin to a one-hit wonder, if “Ah! Leah!” is actually to be defined as such. That is to say that this is the most-notable single in his discography, even though it barely broke the top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100 though did fare better up north. There, it reached 6th place on Canada Top Singles.
But to note, this song also made it onto the top 20 of Billboard’s Mainstream Rock ranking stateside. And it is also known to be quite popular in Pittsburgh, which is more or less Donnie Iris’s hometown.
Credits for “Ah! Leah!”
Donnie Iris wrote this song with his homey and regular collaborator, Mark Avsec, whom he apparently got down with while they were both members of Wild Cherry.
In fact Avsec was also part of The Cruisers, i.e. Iris’s backup band during the early 1980s. Moreover, he produced “Ah! Leah!”. And Donnie did go on to note that originally the intent was for the two of them to create an anti-war song. But by the time all was said and done, this piece ended up being inspired by one Leah Frankford, a memorable lady who had dated one of the members of The Jaggerz back in the day.