Why Can't We Live Together

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"Why Can't We Live Together"
Side A of Australian single
Single by Timmy Thomas
from the album Why Can't We Live Together
B-side"Funky Me"
ReleasedAugust 1972
Length3:24 (single version)
4:50 (album version)
LabelGlades/TK Records
Songwriter(s)Timothy Thomas
Producer(s)Timmy Thomas
Alternative release
Side A of New Zealand single
Side A of New Zealand single

"Why Can't We Live Together" is a song written and recorded by Timmy Thomas in 1972. A chart hit in the following year, it was included on the album Why Can't We Live Together. It was one of the first major hits to feature the use of a rhythm machine.


Thomas wrote the song after recently moving to Miami, Florida, and hearing Walter Cronkite on the radio reporting on the number of deaths in the Vietnam war. In a later interview, he commented:

I said “WHAT?! You mean that many mothers’ children died today? In a war that we can’t come to the table and sit down and talk about this, without so many families losing their loved ones?” I said, “Why can’t we live together?” Bing! That light went off. And I started writing it then. “No more wars, we want peace in this world, and no matter what color, you’re still my brother.” And then after that, put it on this little tape, and went to WEBF, which was a local radio station. And they played local artists then… they played it, and the phones lit up. They said “Man, who is that?” And I did it as a one-man band! That was my foot playing bass, that was my left-hand playing guitar… Could never believe that as a one-man band, something like that would’ve been played that much. But I do believe that the world was ready to start changing a little bit. And that song made the change.[1]

The song is notable for being recorded in mono; its sparse, stripped-down production, features a Lowrey organ, bossa nova-style percussion from an early rhythm machine, and Thomas's passionate, soulful vocal.[2] Thomas recorded a demo at the Bobby Dukoff Recording Studios in North Miami, Florida,[3] with Bill Borkan acting as sound engineer. The single version got more airplay because the longer instrumental coda was considered by many radio stations to be closer to jazz. This song is in a form of a Blues couplet, with the first two lines repeated. This song simply gives an antiwar message. The Timmy Thomas version begins its verses in F Minor, ending in C Major, with the High C note being repeated during the instrumental interlude, without the Organ chords being played. The song begins with 2 instrumental verses, followed by the instrumental interlude, before Thomas sings the verses at 1 minute and 45 seconds into the song.

TK Records staff producer Steve Alaimo listened to the demo of the song and was going to re-cut it with a full band, but then decided the song was already finished the way it was.[4]

Chart performance[edit]

Released as a single in late 1972, the song became a major hit in the U.S. during the early part of 1973, reaching the number one spot on the R&B chart, number three on the Billboard Pop Singles[5] and eventually selling over two million copies. The song became his only hit single. It was also a hit in Canada at #6,[6] in the UK peaking at #12[7] and number 25 in Australia.[8] There was a re-release on 7" and 12" in 1979, with a live version as B-side on the 7" European release.

Later recorded versions[edit]

The song has been covered by many artists, including:


  • Mike Anthony, an American DJ/producer based in Belgium at the time, recorded his discofied version of the song in early 1982 but while it had reached the Belgian and Dutch charts, he was sued by the owners of the original Timmy Thomas recording for using elements from the original recording. A judge ordered a re-recording of the song with all the original parts removed. This ruling marked one of the first court cases in which the use of original samples in new recordings played a role, as a precursor to the many court cases in the 1990s and 2000s.
  • In 2015, Canadian rapper Drake released "Hotline Bling", which heavily samples the song.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Andrew Unterberger, "Q&A: Timmy Thomas On Drake Sampling His ’70s Soul Hit For ‘Hotline Bling’", Spin, October 5, 2015. Retrieved March 12, 2022
  2. ^ "Why Can't We Live Together? - Tinga Stewart - Song Info". AllMusic.
  3. ^ "Biography". dukoff.com. Retrieved 19 October 2022.
  4. ^ Ed Hogan. "Why Can't We Live Together - Timmy Thomas | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 577.
  6. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - February 17, 1973" (PDF).
  7. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 557. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  8. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 308. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  9. ^ a b "Q&A: Timmy Thomas on Drake Sampling His '70s Soul Hit for 'Hotline Bling'". Spin. 5 October 2015.

External links[edit]