Legendary R&B Hitmaker Willie Mitchell Dead At 81
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
And now for some sad news on the passing of one the greats in the music world, musician and producer Willie Mitchell died yesterday at the age of 81. He began his love affair with music at the age of eight when he first picked up a trumpet. As an adult, he signed on to Memphis's Hi Records both as a recording artist and as a producer.
While at Hi Records, Mitchell made a chance acquaintance one night while sharing a bill with a young Al Green. The two would collaborate on many of Green's hits including "Let's Stay Together." Its smooth and silk sound belies the labor of love that went into its recording, according to Willie Mitchell.
Mr. WILLIE MITCHELL (Musician and Producer): It took us a hundred and some hours to put the song on tape because Al, he kept saying what do you want, man? I said well, I want you.
MARTIN: Al Green recalls that Mitchell gave him the advice to back off a bit.
Mr. AL GREEN (Musician): He said don't try to handle the song, Al. Just let the song happen. Just let it happen. Just let it ooze out and let it, that's right.
MARTIN: Again, Willie Mitchell.
Mr. MITCHELL: I wanted his golden voice on it and he kept giving me somebody else's voice and then that's why we just kept going over and over and over and over again. Yeah. When he nailed it I said that's the one.
MARTIN: Musician and producer Willie Mitchell died yesterday at age 81 in Memphis. And we're going to leave you today with that wonderful collaboration between Willie Mitchell and Al Green. Let's listen to "Let's Stay Together."
(Soundbite of song, "Let's Stay Together")
Mr. GREEN: (Singing) I'm, I'm so in love with you. Whatever you want to do is alright with me.
MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.
Mr. GREEN: (Singing) 'Cause you make me feel, so brand new. And I want to spend my life with you. Me sayin' since, baby, since we've been together. Ooo, loving you forever is what I need. Let me, be the one you come running to. I'll never be untrue. Ooo baby, let's, let's stay together. Loving you whether, whether times are good or bad, happy or sad. Oooo oooo ooo ooo, yeah. Whether times are good or bad, happy or sad. Why somebody, why people break up, oh, and turn around and make up. I just can't see. You'd never do that to me, would you baby? 'Cause being around you is all I...