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New Michael Jackson Single Features Akon

'Hold My Hand' had leaked in unfinished version in 2008

November 15, 2010 10:18 AM ET

"Hold My Hand," the first official single from Michael Jackson's forthcoming posthumous album Michael , premiered on the late singer's website early Monday morning. The song, a duet with Akon, was recorded in 2007 and leaked in an unfinished version the following year; Akon completed the song after Jackson's death in June 2009.

"The world was not ready to hear 'Hold My Hand' when it leaked a couple years ago," Akon said in a statement. "We were devastated about it. But its time has definitely come; now in its final state, it has become an incredible, beautiful, anthemic song. I'm so proud to have had the chance to work with Michael, one of my all time idols."

Check Out All of Rolling Stone's coverage in "Michael Jackson Remembered"

"Anthemic" does indeed describe "Hold My Hand," with its soaring chorus characteristic of Akon hits like "Beautiful" and "Sorry, Blame It on Me." (Coincidentally — or not — the chorus also echoes the 1994 Hootie and the Blowfish hit that shares its title.) Jackson's vocal is restrained, but it does include a couple of his trademark grunts and whoops.

According to the statement, Jackson had indicated in a handwritten note that he wanted "Hold My Hand" to be the first single on his next project.

Last Monday, the first song from the album, "Breaking News", premiered on Jackson's website amid controversy over whether or not Jackson was actually singing on it. On Thursday, a lawyer for the singer's estate released a detailed statement asserting that Jackson did, in fact, provide the track's lead vocal, and that an unnamed musicologist, as well as previous Jackson collaborators, could vouch for its authenticity.

Michael: Single Announcement & Tracklisting [Michael Jackson's Official Site]

'Breaking News': Lawyer Says It's Michael Jackson's Voice [New York Times]

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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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