If you listened to the radio, viewed YouTube, streamed popular music, or simply occupied space on this planet within the last year, you most likely heard Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” The Canadian-born rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, and actor is no stranger to having a chart-topping hit or being featured on one, but he definitely hit the mother load in 2015. “Hotline Bling” was a multi-platinum smash topping the rap and R&B charts and peaking at #2 on the pop chart. In addition to the song’s popular video, which became fodder for various parodies including a skit on Saturday Night Live, the tune was also included on several “best of” lists, among them, The Village Voice, which named the song the top single of 2015 and Time, which named it the eighth best song of the year.
The sparse and mellow groove that serves as the foundation for “Hotline Bling” is “Why Can’t We Live Together,” a song by singer, keyboardist, and producer Timmy Thomas, who is known for his work with artists like Donald Byrd and Cannonball Adderley. The single, released in 1972, sold 2 million copies, made it to the #1 spot on the R&B chart, and reached the top 10 on the pop charts in the states and the top 20 in the U.K.
Drake wasn’t the first to sample the tune, however; it’s also been used by other hip-hop artists such as MC Hammer and Leaders of the New School. “Why Can’t We Live Together” was also covered by artists of a wide variety of genres, including guitarist Carlos Santana, singer Sade on her 1984 debut album Diamond Life, keyboardist Jimmy Smith on his 1974 release Black Smith, and singer Lucky Peterson on his self-titled 1999 release.
Montrose Cunningham is a Dallas, Texas-based, independent funk/rock/soul artist and devoted music aficionado, with a Master of Science degree in Marketing. When he isn’t digging through the crates–digital and analog–he’s jamming with his band or hanging with his daughters, sometimes at the same time. Purchase his release Inertia at www.cdbaby.com/cd/montrose, follow him on Twitter @MontroseC and check out his blog, Daddy Rock Star.