Most people probably figure that “Why Can’t We Live Together” is the first time they have heard the hypnotic and highly individualistic style of organ playing of Timmy Thomas. However most B&S readers would certainly be wrong because Timmy is the pianist and organist on most of those great old Goldwax Records of the mid and late 60’s that came from Memphis. Classics by James Carr, th Ovations, Spencer Wiggins, O.V. Wright, Percy Mylem, and Barbara Perry all featured Timmy’s keyboard work.
Fact is that Timmy T. was the resident keyboard man with the Goldwax people and also he made two records in his own right. How did he get there?
“I was living in Memphis in those days” explained the youthful and still dazed hit maker who had literally just heard the news that “Why Can’t We Live Together” had passed the million sales mark that very day whilst he was some three thousand miles away from his Miami base in Los Angeles.
“I took in a rough tape that I had done and played it to Quinton Claunch who was one of the owners at Goldwax. He liked it and we made an agreement b which the record would be released and I would work in his studio on the sessions he was working on. They were great days, man.
“Working with James Carr was really an experience. I have never seen a singer more interested in the music he was singing on – he would know better than his producer if there was a bad note or something. He was nothing short of being a perfectionist in the studio in those days though I believe he’s changed for the worse these days – which isa terrible shame.”
In those halcyon days, memphis was the place to be if you wanted to make soul oriented records. Yet Goldwax didn’t survive. While the city’s other main soul outlets grew to dizzy heights. Goldwax died, “I think that Stax did us more harm than god.” Timmy thoughtfully confided, “You see, if an artist in the area thought he had talent, he would always go to Stax first and if they didn’t like him, he’d end up trying a Goldwax or one of the other recording companies in the city. Stax took up most all of the real taent and Goldwax got mostly the leftovers.”
In those days though, Timy’s talents were not restricted to oonly Goldwax sessions. He naturally worked for Stax and was automatic stand-in with the Mar-keys when Booker T was unavailable. In fact, he did a jamming session one time with Booker T. which Stax presumably has filed someplace.
On the demise of the Goldwax situation, Timmy went back to college, achieving a degree as a Bachelor Of Arts in Music Education in 1966. He went on to teach music while comleting a further and higher musical degree at the UNiversity of Tennessee. All the time though he would play with local bands over the weekends.
In 1970, Timmy went to Miami where he had been selected to head the development programme at the Florida Memorial College. And it is from the City of Miami that his current worldwide acclaim began its upward trend Timmy became the first black to own a lounge in he exclusive Miami Beach area when he opened Timmy’s Lounge last spring and it was in Timmy’s Lounge that “Why Can’t We Live Together” was born. “I had written the song out of frustration,” Timmy explained. “It was written out of my concern for the world. Not racial trouble but a general problem of why can’t we all live together – not necessarily black and white but take a look around the world and see all the little problems that are being experienced – and the big ones in places such as Israel and Egypt or Vietnam.
“The song means a lot to me and not just because it’s been fantastically successful for me but because of what it says and of the things that have happened to me since the record became a hit. A lot of folk have listened and analysed what I am saying and I’m proud of sopme of the compliments I have received from people who appreciate what the song actually says. The success bit? Well. I know it’s happening too much in case it’s all a dream – in which case I never want to wake up.”