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Ben Harper, the National Perform at Obama Rally

President energizes University of Wisconsin students ahead of November 7th elections

September 29, 2010 1:53 PM ET

At President Barack Obama's Moving America Forward rally at the University of Wisconsin yesterday, Ben Harper, a longtime Obama supporter, performed three songs (an untitled instrumental, "With My Own Two Hands" and "Better Way") in front of an estimated crowd of 26,500. The National also played before Obama's speech, which was intended to turn out young Democrats for this November's elections. "Any time you get to share the stage with a president who has true humanity in his heart like President Obama, it's just super special for me," Harper told The Daily Cardinal .

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Obama had used Harper's "Better Way" during the 2008 presidential campaign. "I would just love for the songs that I write to resonate in a soulful, sincere way," Harper told The Cardinal. "I recognize the limits of what music can do and I also recognize the limitless nature and potential of music." Ohio indie rockers the National, whose "Fake Empire" was used in Obama campaign videos, had already been scheduled to perform at Madison's Orpheum Theatre last night.

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Obama, whose poll numbers have dipped in recent months, told the Madison crowd, "You didn't elect me to look at the polls. You elected me to do what was right." Obama also asked students to remain "fired up" in anticipation of the November 7th elections, which will "say a lot about the future of our country." "I understand people are frustrated at ... the pace of change. I'm impatient. Now is not the time to give up. We do not quit," Obama said.

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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.”

More Song Stories entries »
 
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