Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Try A Little Tenderness

One thing you should know about me is that my favourite type of music is Soul from the 60's and 70's. My favourite record label is Stax/Volt Records. My favourite singer of all time is Otis Redding and my favourite song of his is "Try A Little Tenderness". 

A few weeks ago, my friend Late July posted a live version of Otis Redding's cover of “Try A Little Tenderness” for her weekly Saturday Morning Soul post on her blog.  You can find it here:

Naturally, I loved that post.  

Here's some fun facts you may not have known about the song (Most of which have been cribbed from Professor Rob Bowman's amazing book on Stax: Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records).

1.               Bing Crosby wasn't the original version. Ted Lewis charted with the song at No. 6 in February 1933, while Ruth Etting reached No. 16 a month later. Bing Crosby did his version later that year, which didn't chart. (Neither Ted Lewis, nor Ruth Etting's versions are on YouTube)

2.                  Frank Sinatra did a version in the Mid 1940's:

3.                  Nina Simone did a very interesting Jazz influenced version in 1961:

4.                  Prior to recording her seminal work at Atlantic Records, Aretha Franklin was signed to Columbia Records, where they tried to turn her into a pop chanteuse. She recorded a version in 1962, where she couldn't completely erase her gospel roots:

5.                  In the mid 60's Otis Redding's manager had been trying to get him to sing "Try a Little Tenderness" so that he could transition Otis into playing white clubs like the Copacabana. One of the only reasons Otis did his version was because he idolized Sam Cooke, who recorded it as part of a medley at the Copa:

6.                  The next few comments relate to the Studio Version:

7.                  The arrangement is largely by Isaac Hayes (in his capacity as unofficial fifth member of the MG's) who plays organ. (Booker T. is on the piano.)

8.                  The contrapuntal horn introduction, for example was from Isaac. Note how the main melody of that intro shifts from Trumpet to Alto Sax to Tenor Sax.

9.                  The first verse is technically out of time, meaning there's no discernible regular beat.

10.             Al Jackson Jr. keeping time on the rims of his snare from the second verse on was an accident. It was his original idea to lay out until the song shifted into the full band about two thirds of the way in. During one of the rehearsals he idly kept time while Otis sang through the song and everyone loved it.

11.             During the "gotta na na" drum break, listen carefully to the Hi Hat Cymbals. It's the same riff that Isaac Hayes used later on for "Theme from Shaft".

Finally, that last point about Shaft brings up something cool about Otis’ version of this song. It actually links Opera and Disco.  Like all Tin Pan Alley songs, its form is described as AABA (essentially Verse, Verse, Chorus Verse) which ultimately comes from Opera. Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft” of course was an influence on Disco.

Is it any wonder that this is my favourite song of all time?

No comments:

Post a Comment