Song of the Week – Stay With Me, Lorraine Ellison


Where did you go when things went wrong baby?
Who did you run to
And find a shoulder to lay your head upon?
Baby wasn’t I there?
Didn’t I take good care of you?
No no, I can’t believe you’re leaving me
Stay with me baby
Please, stay with me baby
Ooh, stay with me baby
I can’t go on
Who did you touch when you needed tenderness?

So goes the opening section of “Stay With Me” by Lorraine Ellison (1966).

But those words on paper don’t come anywhere close to the emotion that Ellison conveys with her interpretation of the song.

It begins quietly with a simple piano arpeggio, the beat kept with a tap on the high hat. Ellison begins to plead with her man to think about all the kindness and affection she’s given him. Each word is sung with total passion. Then comes the big payoff. The music and her voice swell to an emotion plea to “stay with me baby.”

This may be too bombastic for some of your tastes; to me it is infused with authenticity. Ellison sounds like a woman at the end of her rope – she simply can’t bear to let this man go without a fight. She’s willing to lay it all out, to scratch and claw her way back into his heart, pride be damned.

Some of you may recognize this song from the soundtrack to Bette Midler’s movie The Rose. It was also covered by Janis Joplin. (Although I don’t think she ever did a proper studio recording of “Stay With Me” you can find a live version on YouTube.) That ‘s no surprise when you realize that the tune was co-written by Jerry Ragovoy and George Weiss. Remember, Ragovoy was one of her favorite songwriters, responsible for several other hits in her set list – “Get It While You Can,” “My Baby,” “Piece of My Heart,” and “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)” (also recorded by Ellison).

Sadly, Ellison died back in 1983 of ovarian cancer. She was only 51.

One last bit about “Stay With Me.” As the story goes, this cut, produced by Ragovoy, only came about because Frank Sinatra cancelled a recording session that was booked with a full orchestra. It was too late to send the musicians home without pay, so Ragovoy decided to take advantage of the opportunity and call Ellison in to take a shot at recording the song live. That was a good call.

Enjoy… until next week.

One thought on “Song of the Week – Stay With Me, Lorraine Ellison

  1. Cool story on the recording of this one, but in my high school and college blues fan days, Ragavoy was a Must to Avoid. The pump level was way too high, even on the stuff he produced for BB King. Google BB King and Ragavoy and you end up with this. It isn’t terrible, except in comparison to all the best BB King sides.

    But he deserves props for Piece of my Heart. For sure.

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