The frightening riots of 1991 in Los Angeles, which resulted in the beating of Rodney King, represented a horrible time not only for the city but for all of America. I remember being glued to the TV, watching buildings set on fire, people looting businesses, and just plain craziness. It was during this time that I had just begun writing with Donna McElroy, and she brought me this title: “Why Can’t We Live Together.” Within a few hours, we had finished the tune, complete with the lyric.
Originally we recorded “Why Can’t We Live Together” in a medium tempo R&B style with Donna singing it as a duet with Robert Bailey. Then a few years later, when Donna was asked to sing a few tunes at AFTRA’s special performance series at the Bluebird Café, we decided to include “Why Can’t We Live Together” rearranged as a 12/8 gospel ballad. The audience loved it so much that we received a standing ovation, and AFTRA included it on their yearly compilation CD. Since that time, we’ve kept the song in this style. It just seemed like the right thing for the lyric.
Donna generally uses “Why Can’t We Live Together” as the closer for her live show because of the incredible message it sends. Here’s what she has to say about writing this tune:
“When the days of turmoil over the Rodney King assault compelled him to ask in the press conference, ‘Why can’t we all just get along?’ I started thinking about this song and praying over a ‘hook’ that would attract the listening ear of future titans of social change! I named the song, ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’ to ask every man everywhere to give me a reason for the violence, other than frustration and anger
“We can survive the frustration and the anger if we have a firm foundation of hope and faith in the extraordinary will of God to intercede in our behalf. Don’t be discouraged, and never give up the superhuman aspiration of recovery and victory over oppression and devaluation of identity! I’ll pray for you if you pray for me!”