Leroy Hodges’ laid-back line that anchors Let’s Stay Together – one Al Green’s biggest hits – is a great lesson in balancing supportive playing with melodic touches; there’s a definite James Jamerson influence in many of the rhythmic figures that Leroy plays, but there’s more high register playing here that you’d hear on many of James’ Motown lines.
‘Let’s Stay Together’ Bassline Analysis
Here are some notable highlights:
• Bars 5 and 6 feature a superb melodic line that uses a scalar approach to neatly connect the F and Dm chords. This figure reappears at the start of each verse (bars 21/22 and 53/54, respectively) with slight variations; bar 54 sees Leroy playing a B natural rather than the diatonic Bb, which gives the run more tension.
• The prechorus sections show some Jamerson-esque chromaticism; bar 18 features a double chromatic approach from below into the Am chord, followed by a single chromatic approach from above leading to the D7.
• Each time the D7 chord appears in the prechorus, Leroy highlights the high F# to reinforce the tonality; bar 36 contains a neat fill using open strings and chromaticism to lead into the chorus section, while bars 68-69 give us a melodic high register fill that has been buried in the mix (the bass is barely audible in bar 68 and then magically reappears for the F# on beat 1 of bar 69 – maybe someone behind the desk didn’t appreciate the lick…)
• Chorus 1 (bar 37) is pure Jamerson; the rapidly raked octave-5th-root pattern could have come straight out of The Four Tops’ ‘Bernadette’.
• The bridge has a similar harmonic and rhythmic feel to the bridge of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’, released the previous year. The bass is still in Jamerson territory, with an additional melodic flourish at bar 49.
• The final chorus (bar 69 onwards) ramps up the rhythmic intensity and is filled with Jamerson-isms.