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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.
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.
In 1984 Tina Turner's cover of this song revitalized her career, returning her to the charts in both the UK & US for the first time for over a decade. Turner's version was produced by the B.E.F. production team, which comprises Heaven 17 members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh. B.E.F. was approached as Turner's people liked what they did when they worked with the "River Deep, Mountain High
" singer on a cover of The Temptations', "Ball Of Confusion
." Martyn Ware recalled to us
: "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."
This was used in a television commercial for Tide laundry detergent. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
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."
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."
This song almost wasn't released because Al Green hated the "thin" sound of his falsetto on it. Producer Willie Mitchell remembered: "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."
This song also spent nine straight weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart.
A popular contemporary folk singer, Williams still remembers the sticky note that changed her life in college.
Brad Smith of Blind Melon
The Blind Melon bassist/songwriter tells the story of "No Rain," which he wrote before the band was formed.