The great Al Green. I never tire of hearing his voice. This song almost wasn’t released because Al Green hated the thin sound of his falsetto in it. Producer Willie Mitchell said: “The only fight I ever had with him was about ‘Let’s Stay Together,’ because he thought ‘Let’s Stay Together’ was not a hit.” It did pretty well for a song that Green didn’t think was a hit.
The song peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #7 in the UK, and #14 in Canada in 1972. Let’s Stay Together also spent nine straight weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart.
It was selected by the Library of Congress as a 2010 addition to the National Recording Registry, which selects recordings annually that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.
This song is about an unconditional love where you are determined to stick it out through good times and bad. It’s a very popular wedding song.
Al Green wrote the lyrics to this song; the music was written by Al Jackson Jr., and Willie Mitchell. Jackson is a legendary soul drummer who recorded with Booker T. & the MG’s; Mitchell was Green’s producer. Green did about 100 takes before he got one he liked, and even then he wasn’t sure the song was any good. It was Mitchell who set him straight, telling him it “had magic on it.”
This has appeared in such movies as The Ladies’ Man, On the Line, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and Munich. Perhaps the most famous cinematic use of the song was in the scene from the film Pulp Fiction, where it is playing in the background. It’s on the stereo in the bar, where we first confront Bruce Willis’ poker face while Ving Rhames gives him the “pride only hurts” speech. It’s a relatively quiet scene, so the song really has a chance to set the mood.
According to Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 songs, after Willie Mitchell gave Al Green a rough mix of a tune he and drummer Al Jackson had developed, Green wrote the lyrics in 5 minutes. However, Green didn’t want to record the song and for two days he argued with Willie Mitchell before finally agreeing to cut it.
Tina Turner’s 1983 cover of this song revitalized her career, returning her to the charts in both the UK and US for the first time for over a decade. After divorcing Ike Turner in 1976 she jumped on the disco trend with solo albums in 1978 and 1979 that went nowhere. In 1982, she released a cover of The Temptations “Ball Of Confusion” that was produced by the B.E.F. production team, which comprises Heaven 17 members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh. Turner and her manager Roger Davies liked this direction and enlisted them for more help.
In our interview with Martyn Ware, he recalled: “They said, ‘Would you be interested in writing a song for Private Dancer?’ And I said, ‘Well, we don’t really write for other people.’ We felt a bit self-conscious because we thought that what we did was our particular thing. It wasn’t just an arrogance thing; it was, like, ‘God, how would we start writing a song for Tina Turner?’ Seriously. She was a legend in our eyes. I said, ‘Well, I don’t really feel confident with that, but I really would like to do a cover version, or a couple of cover versions, so we ended up drawing up a shortlist.”
“She was staying in London at the time,” Ware continued, “and the one track I really wanted to do with her was ‘Let’s Stay Together’ because I thought she had turned her back a little bit on her soul roots – she clearly wanted to be a rock singer. I said, ‘Look, as far as I’m concerned Tina, you are still one of the greatest soul singers in the world.’ And I said, ‘What were your influences when you were growing up?’ And she said, ‘Otis Redding, Sam Cooke.’ And I said, ‘How would you feel about “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green?’ And she jumped at the idea.”
Turner had just signed to Capitol Records, which released her version of “Let’s Stay Together” in the UK. With backing vocals by Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware of Heaven 17 and a modern production touch supplied by B.E.F., the song took off, rising to #6 in December 1983. Issued in the US, the song became a favorite in New York dance clubs and rose to #26 in March 1984. After it hit in the UK, Capitol commissioned a full album, giving Turner two weeks to record what became [b]Private Dancer[/b], which returned Turner to stardom.
This was used in a television commercial for Tide laundry detergent.
After explaining how he idolized Al Green growing up in Tennessee, Justin Timberlake sang this with the Reverend at the Grammy awards in 2009 with Boyz II Men and Keith Urban joining in the song. This performance was a last-minute addition to the show, as Rihanna and Chris Brown, who were both scheduled to perform, canceled after an altercation the night before.
Barack Obama sang a couple of lines of the song during an appearance on January 19, 2012 at the Apollo Theater in Harlem for a fund-raising event. Al Green was the opening act and as the American president took to the stage, he noted the soul legend’s presence in the audience and surprised his staffers close by with an impromptu spot of crooning. “Those guys didn’t think I would do it,” he joked. “I told you I was going to do it. The Sandman did not come out.”
It wouldn’t be the last time Obama sang in public during his term: In 2015 he sang part of “Amazing Grace” when he delivered the eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed by a gunman at his church.
When the track at was cut at Royal, Mitchell brought in a group of neighborhood winos who used to linger outside the studio, to serve as Green’s audience. “Willie wanted Al to have people here,” recalled the song’s organist Charles Hodges to Mojo magazine. “Sometimes, when you sing about something, if you look at people, you can relate with the song a little more compassionately. You’d be surprised what you can project from that. You feed on what you’re looking at.”
Let’s Stay Together
Let’s stay together
I, I’m I’m so in love with you
Whatever you want to do
Is all right with me
Cause you make me feel so brand new
And I want to spend my life with you
Let me say that since, baby, since we’ve been together
Loving you forever
Is what I need
Let me, be the one you come running to
I’ll never be untrue
Let’s, let’s stay together (gether)
Lovin’ you whether, whether
Times are good or bad, happy or sad
Oh, oh, oh, oh, yeah
Whether times are good or bad, happy or sad
Why, why some people break up
Then turn around and make up
I just can’t see
You’d never do that to me (would you, baby)
Staying around you is all I see
(Here’s what I want us do)
Let’s, we oughta stay together (gether)
Loving you whether, whether
Times are good or bad, happy or sad
Let’s stay,(let’s stay together) let’s stay together
Loving you whether, whether times are good or bad