Monday, January 10, 2011

"Why Can't We Live Together" - Timmy Thomas / Sade

Timmy Thomas
"Why Can't We Live Together" was first released in 1972. As a single by Timmy Thomas, it was a substantial hit, selling millions of copies in the US and Europe. Most contemporary listeners, however, heard it as the final "bonus" track on Sade's crystalline debut album, Diamond Life (1984). Sade was in the habit of opening her live sets with the song during this period (see video below), and did so as well for her set at the Live Aid concert in London in July 1985, broadcast worldwide. (Unfortunately, the only video available, from the BBC feed, is mangled by interruptions.) Carlos Santana and Joan Osborne (see below) have also covered the song.

Sade at the Live Aid concert
in London, July 1985. She

began her set with "Why
Can't We Live Together."
The core lyrics can be sung in toto, I reckon:

Tell me why, tell me why, tell me why
Why can't we live together?
Tell me why, tell me why
Why can't we live together?

Everybody wants to live together
Why can't we be together?

No more war, no more war, no more war
Just a little peace
No more war, no more war
All we want is some peace in this world

Everybody wants to live together
Why can't we be together?

No matter, no matter what color
You are still my brother
I said no matter, no matter what color
You are still my brother

Everybody wants to live together
Why can't we be together?


It's a paean to peace and fraternity and solidarity and all those good things. Perfect for anti-war, anti-racism, and anti-neoliberal globalization demonstrations, not to mention the campaign against increasingly toxic political discourse in the United States. I was also intrigued to see that the Timmy Thomas version was included on the Boys Don't Cry soundtrack, as an implicit plea for empathy for transsexual/transgendered individuals. For all LGBT demos (think: gay marriage, where the refrain has a plaintive double entendre), it's a fine fit.

Here's the Timmy Thomas original. It was demo'd with just the organ and a recorded rhythm track, then producer and artist decided that it worked better that way, rather than re-recording with a full band:


Thomas playing the song live, albeit with some incredibly hokey female dancing (fortunately, women would later claim the song as their own):


Sade, incidentally the most beautiful woman in human history, opens a 1984 or 1985 concert with "Why Can't We Live Together" (see also the original Diamond Life recording and a rough-and-ready live version from 1983, the earliest incarnation of the group):


Joan Osborne's soulful cover, live in 2002:


Other Resources
Song available on Timmy Thomas, Why Can't We Live Together: The Best of the TK Years, 1972-81 (1998), track 1.


Sade's version appeared as a bonus track on the cassette issue of Diamond Life (1984), track 9.













Joan Osborne's version is found on How Sweet It Is (2002).

1 comment:

  1. Great timing! We have just finished a remake of the original song "Why Can't We Live Together" with the legendary Timmy Thomas. The song features a R&B singer and a rapper along with Timmy Thomas. It will be released soon by 7 radio stations in Florida. The song has a nice retro flavor mixed with todays sound. If you have any questions please contact me.
    Peace,
    Steve Tucker

    ReplyDelete

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