Memphis soul, also known as the Memphis sound, is the most prominent strain of Southern soul. It is a shimmering, sultry style produced in the 1960s and 1970s at Stax Records and Hi Records in Memphis, Tennessee, featuring melodic unison horn lines, organ, guitar, bass, and a driving beat on the drums.Many of the songs in this style were performed by vocalists backed by the house bands of Stax, Hi and Goldwax Records. Memphis soul sound is different from the Motown sound from Detroit or the lighter sound of Chicago soul. After the rise of disco in the late 1970s, Memphis soul declined in popularity. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is dedicated to preserving the Memphis sound.
Soul is similar to genres like Motown or Rhythm and Blues but is unique because of its tonality and origin. Memphis musicians Willie Mitchell and Al Green collaborated to produce the basic sound of all soul music to emerge from Memphis.
My pick for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday is an Al Green hit that can still claim popularity decades later. “Let’s Stay Together”
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 Private Dancer, which returned Turner to stardom.
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 Oh baby Let's, let's stay together Lovin' you whether, whether Times are good or bad, happy or sad Oh, oh, oh, oh 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 Come on Let's stay,(let's stay together) let's stay together Loving you whether times are good or bad Writer/s: Al Green, Al Jackson Jr, Willie Mitchell Publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group, WORDS & MUSIC A DIV OF BIG DEAL MUSIC LLC Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind
And finally, just because I really miss him ❤️ …