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Michael Stipe Reveals R.E.M. Has Had "Tough Ten Years"

September 17, 2007 3:47 PM ET

On Friday, Michael Stipe appeared on Jane Pratt's SIRIUS show Jane Radio and discussed R.E.M.'s well-hidden decade-year struggle to communicate with each other. (Don't fear, R.E.M. die-hards: Stipe also chatted about how the band's March album is bringing them closer than ever). "It's been a really tough ten years for us," Stipe revealed. "We were trying to keep a real brave face publicly, and kind of hold through it. But I have to say I think we finally found a place of communication. We're talking to each other, we've written a bunch of great songs ... I've got another four songs to present to the guys next week when we go back in the studio and one of those is really going to surprise them. I can't wait to see them.

Stipe added that he's using a high-tech songwriting trick he picked up from Bono. "I use the memo on my cell phone to [record lyrics and melodies]. ... I love technology." Not that the twenty-first century is all it was cracked up to be. "I thought we would all have jet packs, and clean energy, and the world would be a great place, and there would be no wars. That's not really quite how it turned out," he lamented. The singer also proclaimed himself an eternal optimist, praised Sean Penn's film Into the Wild (for which Eddie Vedder provides the soundtrack), and said he was heading off to catch Interpol's Madison Square Garden debut Friday night: "I love those guys so much."

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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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