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Ben Gibbard Turns To Kerouac As Inspiration For New Death Cab for Cutie Album

August 31, 2007 1:11 PM ET

Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard is following in Jack Kerouac's footsteps in search of inspiration for his band's next record. But fans expecting a rollicking ode to debauched living will be disappointed: It's not the beat poet's classic tale of youth and abandon On the Road that's on Gibbard's mind -- he's digging Kerouac's dark exploration of the perils of addiction and arrested development, Big Sur. "I don't want to be overdramatic about it, but I'm starting to see a lot of my bad habits get the best of me," Gibbard told the San Francisco Weekly. "Living this life in the same sorta way that Kerouac lived ... you get to hang out at shows and drink and you're able to not really face reality and adulthood the way most of my friends are."

Gibbard worked with Kerouac's nephew on a documentary about Big Sur that also includes contributions from Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Tom Waits and Jay Farrar. Then the singer-guitarist found himself planning a two-week songwriting retreat at the Big Sur cabin where Kerouac wrote the 1962 novel; he plans to hole up and sort through ideas for the next Death Cab record there.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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