When soul legend, Al Green used his heavenly voice to belt out his soulful hit “Let’s Stay Together” in 1972, he managed to create one of the most crowd-pleasing tracks all time. Literally, everybody loves this song. Whether you’re into soul, pop, rock or jazz, the song had the magical ability to transcend all genres, pull on every heartstring and please every taste.
When the song was first released, it topped the Billboard R&B charts for 12 weeks. It has since been ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the greatest musical hits of all time and is now a firm wedding favorite. It’s also a cult pop fixture, having been featured in movies like Pulp Fiction and is seen as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” So, let’s see how Al Green finally found his groove on this track and cemented his status as one of the greatest soul legends of all time.
A Struggling Artist
It might blow your mind to discover that before Al Green became the smoothest voice of his generation, he was once a struggling artist. He originally started out in a family gospel group, but left the group at 20 and moved in with his girlfriend. He then started a new musical group, called the Soul Mates.
In 1967, the group had one successful hit with the track “Back Up Train,” but he eventually quit the band and decided to try to make it as a solo artist. Al started to tour and one day he found himself in the presence of a legendary drummer, Wille Mitchell. Hoping to impress him, Al belted out his winning hit, “Back Up Train.” Although Mitchell wasn’t so impressed with the song, he saw that he had star quality. He also saw something in Al’s voice, and so agreed to be his producer.
The Route to Perfection
The talented twosome then got to work. Although Mitchell said it might take 18 months to churn out a hit, Al had other plans. He was clearly a lyrical genius and showed him a rough mix of a tune that he had already written. Actually it took him around 15 minutes to write the song. Mitchell was more than impressed, but it then took a few more days to convince Al to record it.
Once they got to the studio to record the tune, the talented duo had a difference of opinion. While Al was fired up and tried his best to “blow the studio top off,” Mitchell kept saying, “No, just say it. Don’t try to handle the song, Al. Just let the song happen. Just let it ooze out.” So, while the song had taken 15 minutes to write “It took us a hundred and some hours to put the song on tape.” Mitchell later said, “I wanted this golden voice on it, and he kept giving me somebody else’s voice.” So after going over and over the song, they finally nailed it!
A Magical Hit
After all that effort, Al still wasn’t sure about the song as he didn’t like the “thin” sound of his voice. He even thought “Let’s Stay Together” wouldn’t be a hit. However, Mitchell tried his best to convince Al to release it as it “had magic on it.” And sure enough, he was right. Now that Al Green had found his groove, he released the song and belted his heart out to live audiences and it became an instant success in the charts.
While Al Green lent his golden voice and dulcet tones to the song, another reason for the success of the track was that the song’s lyrics were also pretty relatable and powerful. The tune managed to strike a chord with everyone as it’s about the unconditional love between two people. Although some people “break up and turn around and makeup,” they should “stay together” through good times and bad. He also released an album of the same name, which went gold. And well, the rest was history for this soul legend…