Category Archives: Otis Redding

T is for Three "Tender" Tunes


If you check only the Wikipedia post for the song Try a Little Tenderness, you’ll find the listing dominated by references to Otis Redding. While he did perform the benchmark version in the mid-1960s, a live version of which you can watch here, the song has a much richer history.

Here’s a version of the song, written by “Irving King” (James Campbell and Reginald Connelly) and Harry M. Woods, performed by Francis Albert Sinatra; click on the button on the upper right side of the page. Interesting that this version has an intro not generally used.

The Wikipedia notes a bunch of other folks who also recorded, including “on December 8, 1932 by the Ray Noble Orchestra (with vocals by Val Rosing) followed by both Ruth Etting and Bing Crosby in 1933.

But in my Top Pop Singles, under the Otis Redding listing for the song, it says: “#6 hit for Ted Lewis in 1933”, though the Wikipedia doesn’t note Lewis at all. Here’s the Ted Lewis version (song #8), with a lengthy instrumental before the lyrics come in.

Who IS this Ted Lewis? According to my Top Memories, 1890-1954 book, this song charted for him in February of 1933 for 10 weeks, getting up to #6. But he had 101 Top 20 hits between 1920 and 1934; Tenderness being the 92nd. Among his #1 hits:
When My Baby Smiles at Me (1920-7 weeks), All By Myself (1921-4 weeks), O! Katharina (1925-1 week), Just A Gigilo (1931-2 weeks; yes, the song later covered by David Lee Roth, formerly of Van Halen), In A Shanty in Old Shanty Town (1932-10 weeks), and Lazybones (1933-4 weeks).

Ruth Etting also charted with Tenderness on 3/18/33 for two weeks. She had 62 Top 20 Hits between 1926 and 1937, this being the 59th, with her biggest hit Life Is A Song in 1935 (2 weeks at #1).

Otis Redding’s version got to #25 in the pop charts and #4 on the rhythm and blues charts in December 1966. The song is listed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is #204 in a list of Rolling Stone magazine’s greatest songs. Otis’ biggest hit, unfortunately, was posthumous: (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay in the winter of 1968, which went to #1 won a number of Grammy awards, as well as citations by Rolling Stone (#28), R&RHOF, RIAA, NPR and BMI

Before Otis, Aretha Franklin had a minor hit (#100 in 1962), and after Three Dog Night (#29 in 1969). But it has become a staple in the repertoire of many an artist.

Paul Simon’s second album after his breakup with Art Garfunkel was the eclectic There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, featuring songs such as Kodachrome and Loves Me Like A Rock. The 1973 collection also featured a lovely song called Tenderness, which Like Loves Me Like a Rock features the vocal stylings of the gospel group the Dixie Hummingbirds. (Unfortunately, all I could find is this cover version.) The album went to #2 and signaled a successful solo career to come, featuring albums such as Still Crazy After All these Years (#1 in 1975) and Graceland (#3 in 1986).

Paul Simon won the very first Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2007, succeeded by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.

The 1956 Elvis Presley hit Love Me Tender had a peculiar songwriting history, explained here. Briefly, it was written as Aura Lee nearly a century earlier. The adaptation was credited to Presley and the songwriting adapter’s wife, neither of whom actually wrote it. It was the title song of Elvis’ film debut.

I learned http://www.metrolyrics.com/aura-lee-lyrics-traditional.htmlAura Lee in grade school so found Love Me Tender as somehow peculiar. In fact, the school kids made up a song to Aura Lee, sung with the Elvis enunciation:

When you must take medicine
Take it orally
That’s because the other way
Is more painfully.

Orally, orally
Take it orally
That’s because…the other way…
Is more painfully.

Anyway, here’s the classic Presley tune, the fourth of a dozen and a half #1 hits in the United States. (The 31-song ELV1S album contained #1s in the US and/or the UK.)

ROG

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As I’ve noted, I often play music based on artists’ birthdays. This week, I have quite a few albums by these folks:
May 9, 1949, Billy Joel
May 10, 1961, Bono (Paul Hewson) (U2)
May 12, 1948, Steve Winwood
May 13, 1950, Stevie Wonder
May 14, 1953, David Byrne
And at least one from these people:
May 9, 1937, Dave Prater (Sam & Dave)
May 9, 1944, Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield/Poco)
May 9, 1945, Steve Katz (Blues Project/Blood, Sweat & Tears)
May 10, 1946, Dave Mason (Traffic)
May 10, 1946, Donovan (Donovan Leitch)
May 11, 1941, Eric Burdon (Animals)
May 13, 1966, Darius Rucker (Hootie & The Blowfish)
May 14, 1936, Bobby Darin
May 15, 1948, Brian Eno
May 15, 1953, Mike Oldfield
May 16, 1966, Janet Jackson
So sue me, I bought that first Hootie album. Oh, and the exact dates of the birthdays I’ve seen different by a day or two.

Last night, Carol and I saw a musical based on the music of one of these folks as a pre-anniversary present for ourselves. Wanna guess which one?

I was thinking about a couple questions Eddie (yes, him again) posed:
1. Is it any slight to the original artist when someone else’s version of a song becomes the definitive one? Even if the original artist wrote it?
I can think of at least a couple examples where the original artist acknowledged the superiority of the cover. One was Otis Redding’s Respect; he said of Aretha Franklin something like “That girl done stole that song from me.”
Then even Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails noted, somewhat wistfully, that Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” had become the definitive one.
[And speaking of which: Trent Reznor for intellectual property czar.]
I suppose it depends how the songwriter feels about the song. If it it’s his or her “baby”, then losing it might not feel so hot. But if the writer is open to new possibilities, then I’d think it’d be an honor. Unless…
2. What do you think about cases where a cover is actually quite inferior to the original, yet is wildly more successful?
I’m trying to think of an example of this, actually. Do you have something in mind? Can anyone think of an original, written by the artist, that the cover was not good, yet sold well? Purists might pick Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”, but Whitney Houston’s version was not technically terrible, just mind-numblingly overplayed.

ROG