“Feel The Fire” by Peabo Bryson (1978)/Stephanie Mills (1979)/Teddy Pendergrass (feat. Stephanie Mills, 1980)

I first heard “Feel The Fire” as recorded by Stephanie Mills. It was the final track on her 1979 breakout album What’cha Gonna Do With My Lovin’ and got major burn in the house I grew up in. Someone in my family must’ve been going through it. It also apparently got burn in lots of other (mostly Black) houses too, as it became one of Stephanie’s most popular songs despite not being released as a single. What I didn’t realize at the time (because I was barely out of diapers) is that Stephanie’s version of “Feel The Fire” was a cover, having been originally written and recorded by Peabo Bryson. Peaking at #13 on the R&B charts, it was one of Peabo’s breakout hits and has stuck around a lot longer than its chart position may indicate.

The key word (and the appropriate word) to describe any of the three main versions of “Feel The Fire” (oh yeah, Teddy Pendergrass did a version too, teaming up with MIlls for a sumptuous duet) is “smoldering”. It might actually work best as a duet; Stephanie and Teddy’s chemistry practically jumps off of the record as it plays. The common thread running through all three versions is desire. “Feel The Fire” is not a breakup song, it’s a song that says “you must understand how badly I want to be with you”. Like, the narrator’s guard is being let down so that their partner can understand their level of desire, and there must be reciprocation. “Don’t go play with my emotions” is a key lyric of the song, and as I’ve gotten older and been in situations where the lyrics of “Feel The Fire” play out (usually to my detriment, unfortunately), the power of this song has increased in value to me. I’m sure plenty of folks out there can and do relate.

for some bonus feels…watch this version with Peabo, Kenny Lattimore and Tevin Campbell.

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