STORY BEHIND THE SONG - DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU

Songwriter Mike Stewart learned how to make the best of a rocky situation when penning this 1983 Ronnie Milsap chart-topper

Songwriter Mike Stewart learned how to make the best of a rocky situation when penning this 1983 Ronnie Milsap chart-topper. The inspiration came from a married couple, both friends of Mike's, who came to him for advice on their failing relationship.

"She said, 'How could he ever be interested in someone else, because no one could love him as much as I do,' " Mike remembers.

That motivated Mike to do some thinking - and writing. As he ran through some lyrics - Why must you disappear, why must you go, don't you know how much I love you - Mike began putting a melody to those words. He finished the first verse that same evening.

Mike showed his work-in-progress to fellow songwriter Dan Williams the next day. They finalized the song about six months later.

"When you first write a song, you never know what's going to come of it," says Dan. But he and Mike had a plan.

"We were both getting close to signing a record deal. We wanted to keep the song for ourselves," says Dan. He explains, with a lengthy laugh, that he and Mike had formed a duo called Haulin' Oats, a takeoff on the pop duo Hall & Oates.

Their plan to hang on to the song changed in a heartbeat, however, as Ronnie Milsap entered the picture. Ronnie heard the tune, loved it and called Mike and Dan to ask permission to record it.

"We probably took about two and a half seconds to say that we would be honored!" Mike says. Dan chimes in, "At this point, Ronnie had about 20 No. 1s."

Soon Ronnie would have another. "Don't You Know How Much I Love You" was released in July of 1983 and hit No. 1 on Oct. 8.

"It couldn't have come at a better time," Dan says. "It was the first No. 1 for both of us."

Twenty years later, the tune continues to have a life of its own. On occasion, Ronnie will open his shows with "Don't You Know How Much I Love You."

As for the couple who inspired the song? "I still keep in touch with them," says Mike. "And they still have no clue that their marital problems led to a huge hit."

Story by Jill Carlson

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