Delaney & Bonnie had a lot of friends. So there’s no surprise that an early D&B album cut entered the repertoire of both The Staple Singers and The Flying Burrito Brothers before the duo commercially released their own recording. “Get Ourselves Together” was never anyone’s single, but there was something about this song that transcends genre and immediately yielded two distinct and powerful interpretations.
The D&B version doesn’t feature the Steve Cropper helmed Stax-Volt house band, but The Staple Singers’ version does. Released in late 1968, the Staples’ first Stax record, Soul Folk in Action, led off with a crisp, articulate rendition of “We’ve Got To Get Ourselves Together” in an unmistakable Stax arrangement. Mavis’ close, dry vocals and the group’s call-and response singing on lines like “We must not wait until it’s gone, gone, gone” suggests an urgency… a call to action. The Staple Singers were moving away from their purely gospel roots, and at this same time, Delaney & Bonnie were about to be the first white act to put a record out on Stax (1969’s Home). D&B’s relationship with the label explains how Bramlett-penned tunes ended up on Soul Folk—they also co-wrote “The Ghetto”. The record is best known for covers of “The Weight” and “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” but Soul Folk in Action coheres thematically around the two Bramlett songs along with “Long Walk to D.C.,” and album standout “I See It.”
Where the Staples’ version sounds urgent, Gram Parsons’ version with The Flying Burrito Brothers feels desperate and personal. Recorded in San Francisco in April, 1969—months after the release of The Gilded Palace of Sin— The Burrito Bros.’ recently released Live at the Avalon Ballroom album features two performances of “We’ve Got To Get Ourselves Together”—a fun, sloppy cover to beef up their live set glazed over with drawling steel-guitar. However, Parsons was not afraid to take the soul tune seriously, masterfully delivering on album versions of “Do Right Woman” and “Dark End of the Street.” After seeing an early performance at a bar in the Laurel Canyon, Parsons became early supporter of Delaney & Bonnie’s act. It was common for all kinds of musical celebrities to sit in and jam with D&B during at their shows in The Valley (the basis for Delaney & Bonnie & Friends’ talent-glutted entourage), and Gram eventually collaborated with them on tape on the group’s 1971 record Motel Shot. Listen to both cover versions of “We’ve Got To Get Ourselves Together” below. words/ a spoto