It took Al Green five minutes to write the lyrics to "Let's Stay Together" in the autumn of 1971—and mere seconds to decide he didn't want to record it.
For two days, the then 25-year-old soul singer butted heads with his producer, Willie Mitchell, who had written the music with drummer Al Jackson Jr. and was convinced there was something special about both the groove and the message, its resolve to hang in there, "whether times are good or bad, happy or sad."
Green eventually relented, but then hated what he dismissed as his "thin" falsetto. A fresh argument ensued over whether the song should even be released. "He thought 'Let's Stay Together' was not a hit," Mitchell later said, claiming the tune was responsible for "the only fight" he ever had with Green.
Rev. Al would later have to confess he was wrong—big-time. "Let's Stay Together," debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 100 in November 1971 and inched its way up to the top spot on February 12, 1972, ending "American Pie's" month-long stranglehold on No. 1. It also reigned over the R&B charts for nine weeks and, in 2011, was ranked No. 60 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Forty-six years after its heyday, "Let's Stay Together" remains the only No. 1 hit of Green's nearly 50-year career. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
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