Let's Work Together

Album: Let's Work Together (1969)
Charted: 32

Songfacts®:

  • Wilbert Harrison originally wrote and recorded this blues-style R&B number as "Let's Stick Together," a plea for fidelity in a fractured marriage. That version, released in 1962, didn't make the charts (until Bryan Ferry covered it in 1976) but never left Harrison's mind. Seven years later, he resurrected the song, keeping the melody but changing the lyrics. "I thought I'd put some words to it that meant a bit more," he told Beat Instrumental in 1970.

    Changing the title to "Let's Work Together," Harrison's new message of unity was aimed at a nation rife with conflict over the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War.
  • Harrison acted as a one-man-band on this, playing harmonica, guitar, and percussion in addition to singing.
  • Sue Records, a small New York label, released this as a two-part single in 1969 but it took around nine months reach the charts. It peaked at #32 in February 1970. In November, a cover by the blues-rock band Canned Heat landed at #26 (#2 UK). It was Harrison's second and last Top 40 hit. His first was a decade earlier when his cover of the Leiber and Stoller tune "Kansas City" hit #1.
  • Canned Heat didn't mean to overshadow Harrison with their version. In fact, if they'd known the singer was going to have success with it, they never would have recorded it in the first place. They first heard the tune when it was still making the rounds at underground radio stations. Their new guitarist Harvey Mandel played it for the rest of the guys and suggested they cover it, but their co-vocalist, Bob "The Bear" Hite, wanted to wait a few months to see if Harrison would chart first. According to drummer Adolfo de la Parra, Hite didn't like taking songs away from living black musicians unless they weren't hits.

    "If the song languished among blues collectors, then he thought we could carry it to a bigger audience and at least get the composer writer's royalties," de la Parra wrote in his book, Living The Blues. They recorded the tune in December 1969 without knowing Harrison would get a chart entry just a couple months later.
  • With Hite on lead vocal, the Canned Heat version came together easily in just one or two takes. "That was it," de la Parra explained. "There was nothing else to do with it. It was one of the greatest songs we recorded. Listening to 'Let's Work Together,' you appreciate the guitars, the sound of the drums, the sound of the drive, the cymbals, the bass. Everything came together perfectly. If we'd stayed there 12 hours working on it, it wouldn't have been as good. The magic was the fact that we just laid it down and didn't mess with it."

    He added: "It was the perfect vehicle for Bob, summoning the world to get together and make someone happy. It was his greatest performance and only hit. The song also enhanced Canned Heat's dual character, a band with two lead singers with very different styles and voices."
  • In 2020, Canned Heat collaborated with William Shatner on a new version for Shatner's album The Blues. Backed by the current lineup of the band, including Adolfo de la Parra on drums and Harvey Mandel on guitar, Shatner delivered an exaggerated performance that fit in with his other dramatic renderings of popular tunes, like his spoken-word interpretations of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" from his 1968 album, The Transformed Man.

    "Let's Work Together" was an appropriate choice for 2020 while racial tensions and political conflict continued to rage in the US. "This is a terrific song for this moment in time!" the 89-year-old actor proclaimed ahead of the release.
  • Country singer Dwight Yoakam recorded this for his 1990 album, If There Was A Way. It wasn't released as a single, but it showed up in the movie D2: The Mighty Ducks a few years later.
  • Canned Heat's version was used in the movies Forrest Gump (1994), Big Fish (2003), and Invincible (2006).

Comments: 1

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1970 {February 15th} a covered version of "Let's Work Together" by Canned Heat peaked at #2 {for 1 week} on the United Kingdom's Official Singles* chart, for the week it was at #2, the #1 record for that week was "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)" by Edison Lighthouse...
    And also at the time in the U.S.A., Wilbert Harrison's original version of "Let's Work Together" was at #42 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, two weeks earlier it had peaked at #32 {for 2 weeks}, and Mr. Harrison composed "Let's Work Together"...
    Between 1968 and 1971 the Los Angeles-based group had five records on the U.K. Singles chart, two made the Top 10 with the above "Let's Work Together" being their biggest hit...
    Besides "Let's Work Together", their other Top 10 record was "On The Road Again", it peaked at #8 for two weeks in September of 1968...
    Plus their other three charted records were "Going Up The Country" {#19 in 1968}, "Sugar Bee" {#40 in 1970}, and "Long Way From L.A." {#51 in 1971}...
    The band's bassist, Larry Taylor, passed away at the age of 77 on August 19th, 2019...
    May both he and Wilbert Harrison {1929 – 1994} R.I.P.
    * And from the 'For What It's Worth' department, the remainder of the U.K. Singles' Top 10 on February 15th, 1970:
    At #3. "Leaving On A Jet Plane" by Peter, Paul & Mary
    #4. "I Want You Back" by the Jackson Five
    #5. "Wand'rin' Star" by Lee Marvin
    #6. "Temma Harbour" by Mary Hopkin
    #7. "Instant Karma!" by John Ono Lennon
    #8. "The Witch's Promise"/"Teacher" by Jethro Tull
    #9. "Venus" by Shocking Blue
    #10. "Two Little Boys" by Rolf Harris
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