S y d n e y T r a d s

Weblog of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum

Thinking Right About Pop Culture: Wilbert Harrison, “Let’s Stick Together”

What follows are programme notes for the “Conservative Song” segment of Radio Carpe Diem compiled by Dominik Giemza. The notes were produced for a broadcast of Monday, 31 May 2010 (the first in its series) and form the basis of a live on-air discussion about conservative and traditionalist themes that can be inferred from items of popular music. Radio Carpe Diem is Australia’s only paleoconservative and traditionalist radio programme and can be accessed online or free to air at 88.9FM at 8:00pm to 10:00pm Mondays (Sydney, Australia). Readers’ comments are welcome here at SydneyTrads. Listeners are encouraged to tune in and engage in the discussion.

Wilbert HarrisonIntroduction

Exploring the depths of pop culture detritus, to boldly go where no conservative has gone before, on a continuing search for needles of virtue in a haystack of hedonism and misplaced sentiment. Today’s instalment – the classic R&B tune and 70’s retro favourite – “Let’s Stick Together.”

History

It was originally written in 1962 by the late Wilbert Harrison, a black R&B singer from North Carolina (1929-1994), who is known for his 1959 hit version of the American standard “Kansas City.” I note Tom Jones also did a version of “Kansas City.”

“Let’s Stick Together” has however led two parallel lives as there are actually two versions of the song, with completely different lyrics each written by Harrison – “Lets’ Stick Together” being about commitment to marriage and “Let’s Work Together” being about, well… work. Harrison rewrote the song in the late 1960s as “Let’s Work Together” which was covered in 1969 by Canned Heat and much later by Dwight Yoakam.

As such until Bryan Ferry covered it in 1976 on the “Let’s Stick Together” album the “work” version was more well known. One wonders whether Ferry’s innate conservatism had something to do with it as we will see when we examine the lyrics. Interestingly Bob Dylan is the only other well known artist to have covered the “marriage” version and he did it a long time after Ferry (on Dylan’s 1988 album “Down in the Groove”).

Lyrics

Bryan Ferry “Let’s Stick Together” version (using original 1962 lyrics)

And now the marriage vow is very sacred,
The man has put us together now,
You ought to make it stick together,
Come on, come on, let’s stick together.

You know we made a vow not to leave one another never.

But now you never miss your water ’til your well runs dry,
Come on now baby give our love a try,
Let’s stick together, c’mon c’mon let’s stick together.

You know we made a vow not to leave one another never.

Well if you’re stuck for a while consider our child,
How can it be happy without its ma and pa,
Lets stick together, cmon cmon lets stick together.

You know we made a vow not to leave one another never.

Now if you’re stuck for a while consider our child,
How can it be happy without its ma and pa,
Lets stick together, cmon cmon lets stick together.

You know we made a vow not to leave one another never.

Dwight Yoakam, Canned Heat and Wilbert Harrison (1970) “Let’s Work Together” versions:

Together we will stand,
Divided well fall,
Come on now people let’s get on the ball,
And work together,
Come on, come on let’s work together,
Now, now people,
Say now together we will stand,
Every boy, girl, woman and man.

Before, when things go wrong,
As they sometimes will,
And the road you travel, it,
Leads all uphill.

Lets work together,
Come on, come on let’s work together,
Now, now people,
Say now together we will stand,
Every boy, girl, woman and man, ah yeah.

Ah, looky here, looky here,
Sock it to me baby, mercy.

Make someone happy,
Make someone smile,
Lets all work together,
And make life worthwhile.

Lets work together,
Come on, come on let’s work together,
Now, now people,
Say now together we will stand,
Every boy, girl, woman and man.

Two or three minutes,
Two or three hours,
What do they mean now, now,
In this life of ours.

Lets work together,
Come on, come on let’s work together,
Now, now people,
Say now together we will stand,
Every boy, girl, woman and man, ah yeah,
Ah looky here, looky here.

Notes for The Discussion

The version popularised by Ferry has clear conservative overtones. It, is written form the perspective of a man wanting to maintain commitment to marriage, indeed it is a plea to a wife that has left or is considering leaving a marriage. This is quite contrary to the stereotype of males being commitment phobic. The persuasive effect of what the man wants to achieve boils down to pleas in a man’s language. These are not touchy feely feminine sentiments or emotional blackmail but appeals to honour, common sense and duty that pervade those 3 verses. Both verse one and the chorus appeal to her honour, the honour of keeping ones vows not just for herself but before God.

And now the marriage vow is very sacred,
The man has put us together now,
You ought to make it stick together.

Chorus:

You know we made a vow not to leave one another never.

Verse two appeals to common sense, namely that you don’t always appreciate what you have until its gone.

But now you never miss your water ’til your well runs dry.

The last verse, which is sung twice in the Ferry version, appeals to duty, namely the duty to one’s children (being the duty to provide for them including the provision of a mother and a father).

Well if you’re stuck for a while consider our child,
How can it be happy without its ma and pa.

I also wonder if the reference to “stuck” refers to feminine indecisiveness?

Dominik Giemza

The writer is a legal practitioner and the co-host of Carpe Diem Radio’s regular segment: the “Conservative Song” . The above notes were drafted for a live and on air debate about conservative and traditionalist themes which can be found in popular music. Listeners can access Radio Carpe Diem either on air at 2RSR 88.9FM in the greater Sydney region, each Monday between 8:00pm and 10:00pm, or streaming live via TuneIn.com. Feedback is welcome.

SydneyTrads is the internet portal and communication page of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum: an association of young professionals who form part of the Australian paleoconservative, traditionalist conservative, and independent right.
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