What a voice in this Memphis preacher. The Rev. Al Green can growl one moment, soar to a crystal clear falsetto the next. This song is his best, a joy from the first note. Uploaded by list.co.uk.
We’re going to call him Rev. Al Green, because that’s who he is today. He was still just Al in 1972, when he recorded “Let’s Stay Together,” a vocal masterpiece.
This was the second of seven consecutive gold singles. Green brought his full talents to the song, reaching down to growling low notes, then soaring up immediately into falsetto. My favorite part in the song seems like an ad lib – after he sings, “You’d never do that to me” in the second verse, he says quietly, “Would you, baby?”
Uploaded by didtheydie.com.
Green is a product of the Memphis soul movement, not Motown. Some of the Otis Redding sound is evident from time to time, especially in the horns.
Of course, he is now Rev. Al Green, pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis. He’s learned to balance his gospel music with his soul singing. However he works it out in his own mind, we’ll always have the near perfection of “Let’s Stay Together” to enjoy. It was ranked no. 60 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
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Aretha Franklin (Great American Things, July 18, 2009) was already a star before she released “Respect.” But this went all the way to number one on the Billboard chart for two weeks, and became her signature song. When she spelled out R-E-S-P-E-C-T, she took this song into the pantheon of great R&B recordings.
The song earned Aretha two Grammy Awards in 1968 (Best Rhythm & Blues Recording, Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Recording, Female), and it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame (yes, songs are inducted) in 1998. It was selected as number 5 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and was listed among the Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry of America.
Otis Redding. Uploaded by madisonbluessociety.com.
There’s a line in “Respect” that always used to puzzle me. The great Aretha sings, “I’m about to give you all of my money, and all I’m asking in return honey, is to give me my propers when you get home.” First of all, I didn’t know what “propers” meant. But it felt wrong for a woman to say she’s giving a man all her money.
That was before I found out that Otis Redding wrote the song, and the lyrics were gender reversed for Aretha. So it makes sense for a man to say, “Hey little girl, you’re sweeter than honey. And I’m about to give you all of my money, all I’m asking is a little respect when I come home.” Ah, okay. Now it makes sense.
First the Aretha take, then Otis Redding’s original version: