Timmy Thomas, R&B Singer Behind 1973 Anti-War Song “Why Can’t We Live Together,” Dead at 77 from Cancer

The singer and songwriter Timmy Thomas in 1973, the year his “Why Can’t We Live Together” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B chart. Credit…Michael Putland/Getty Images

In the summer of 1972, the singer and keyboardist Timmy Thomas was watching the “CBS Evening News” and heard Walter Cronkite tick off the day’s death count of American and Vietcong soldiers.

“I said, ‘what?!’ You mean that many mothers’ children died today?” Mr. Thomas told Spin magazine in 2015. “In a war that we can’t come to the table and sit down and talk about this, without so many families losing their loved ones?’ I said, ‘Why can’t we live together?’”

His question became the title of his best-known song: a soulful, plaintive statement against the Vietnam War that he sang to his own accompaniment on the electric organ and drum machine. With a sentiment similar to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” from a year earlier, Mr. Thomas sang on “Why Can’t We Live Together”:

No more wars, no more wars, no more war
Umm, just a little peace in this world
No more wars, no more war
All we want is some peace in this world
Everybody wants to live together
Why can’t we live together?

The song, released on the Glades label, a subsidiary of the Miami-based TK Records, reached No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B chart and No. 3 on its Hot 100 chart in early 1973 and sold upward of a million copies.

Mr. Thomas never again had a hit anywhere as big as “Why Can’t We Live Together,” but the song had a lasting impact. Forty-two years later, Drake sampled it on “Hotline Bling,” his hit about late-night cellphone calls from a former lover, and it rose to No. 1 on the Billboard rap chart and No. 2 on the Hot 100.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Richard Sandomir