Ralph Stuart Emanuel Donner (February 10, 1943 – April 6, 1984)[1] was an American rock and roll singer. He scored several pop hits in the US in the early 1960s, and had a voice similar to Elvis Presley. His best known song is his 1961 top ten hit, "You Don't Know What You've Got (Until You Lose It)".

Ral Donner
Birth nameRalph Stuart Emanuel Donner
Born(1943-02-10)February 10, 1943
Norwood Park, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedApril 6, 1984(1984-04-06) (aged 41)
Chicago, U.S.
GenresRock and roll


Donner's grave at Acacia Park Cemetery

Ralph Donner was born in Norwood Park, Chicago, Illinois, United States,[2] and sang in church as a child. He sang in local talent shows as a teen, and formed two of his own bands, the Rockin' Five and the Gents, in high school. The Rockin' Five played with Sammy Davis, Jr. on Chicago television at one point in the late 1950s. In 1959, he appeared on Alan Freed's Big Beat program, and released a single with the Gents; soon after, the Gents toured with The Sparkletones.

Donner recorded a cover of Presley's "The Girl of My Best Friend", along with a backing band called the Starfires. After being picked up by Gone Records, Donner re-recorded and re-released the tune, which became a nationwide hit; some listeners even thought that the cover was Presley himself.[3] His next single, "You Don't Know What You've Got (Until You Lose It)", became his biggest, and only Top Ten, hit on the Billboard chart in the United States, peaking at No. 4.[4] The track peaked at No. 25 in the UK Singles Chart in 1961.[1] He managed a few more hits, the last of which was in 1962.

In the mid-1960s, Donner recorded for Reprise Records and Red Bird Records, but saw little further success.[4] He played little in the 1970s, recording occasionally, but saw some rekindled interest in his music after Presley's death.[3] In 1981, he provided voice-over narration (in the voice of Elvis) in the film This Is Elvis.[4]

Donner died of lung cancer on April 6, 1984.[4][5] He was interred in the mausoleum of Acacia Park Cemetery in Norwood Park Township.

Donner was cited by Robert Plant as an influence at the 1995 induction of Led Zeppelin into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[6]




List of singles, with selected chart positions
Year Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Label & number Peak chart positions Album
1959 "That's All Right With Me"
b/w "Tell Me Why"
Scottie 1310 Ral Donner Ray Smith & Bobby Dale
1961 "Girl Of My Best Friend"
b/w "It's Been A Long Long Time" (Non-album track)
Gone 5102 19 Takin' Care Of Business
"And Then"
b/w "To Love"
Gone 5108 Non-album tracks
"You Don't Know What You've Got (Until You Lose It)"
b/w "So Close To Heaven" (Non-album track)
Gone 5108
(Same number used as above single)
4 25 Takin' Care Of Business
"Please Don't Go"
b/w "I Didn't Figure On Him (To Come Back)"
Gone 5114 39
"School Of Heartbreakers"
b/w "Because We're Young" (Non-album track)
Gone 5119
"She's Everything (I Wanted You To Be)"
Original B-side: "Will You Love Me In Heaven"
Later B-side: "Because We're Young"
Gone 5121 18 Non-album tracks
1962 "(What A Sad Way) To Love Somebody"
b/w "Will You Love Me In Heaven"
Gone 5125 74
"Loveless Life"[A]
b/w "Bells Of Love"
Gone 5129 117
"To Love"
b/w "Sweetheart"
Gone 5133
"Second Miracle (Of Christmas)"
b/w "(Things That Make Up) Christmas Day"
Reprise 20135
1963 "I Got Burned"[B]
b/w "A Tear In My Eye"
Reprise 20141 124
"Loneliness Of A Star"
b/w "And Then"
Tau 105
"I Wish This Night Would Never End"
b/w "Don't Put Your Heart In His Hand"
Reprise 20176
"Run Little Linda"
b/w "Beyond The Heartbreak (But Still In Love)"
Reprise 20192
1965 "You Finally Said Something Good"
b/w "Poison Ivy League"
Fontana 1502
"Good Lovin'"
b/w "The Other Side Of Me"
Fontana 1515
1966 "Love Isn't Like That"
b/w "It Will Only Make Me Love You More"
Red Bird 10-057
1968 "(If I Had My) Life To Live Over"
b/w "Lost"
Mid-Eagle 101 An Evening With Ral Donner
"If I Promise"
b/w "Just A Little Sunshine (In The Rain)"
Rising Sons 714 Non-album tracks
1971 "(All Of A Sudden) My Heart Sings"
b/w "Lovin' Place"
M.J. 222
1972 "Don't Let It Slip Away"
b/w "Wait A Minute Now"
Sunlight 1006
1974 "The Wedding Song"
b/w "Godfather, Per Me"
Chicago Fire 7402 An Evening With Ral Donner
1976 "The Wedding Song"
b/w "So Much Lovin'"
Mid-Eagle 275
1978 "The Day The Beat Stopped"
b/w "Rock On Me"
Thunder 7801 Non-album tracks
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.


  • A ^ "Loveless Life" did not enter the Billboard Hot 100 but peaked on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart at number 17.[7]
  • B ^ "I Got Burned" did not enter the Billboard Hot 100 but peaked on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart at number 24.[7]


  1. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 165. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  2. ^ [1] Archived January 26, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b Bruce Eder, Ral Donner at AllMusic
  4. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 718. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  5. ^ "The Dead Rock Stars Club - The 1980s". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved August 24, 2021.
  6. ^ Reed, Ryan (June 18, 2021). "45 Years Ago: Led Zeppelin Go Rockabilly With 'Candy Store Rock'". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved September 16, 2021. We looked to America from an early age and we admired the work of Howlin' Wolf, the writing of Willie Dixon, the playing of Muddy Waters and the singing of the Capris, The Jive Five and Ral Donner
  7. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2010). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010 (PDF). Billboard Books. p. 237.