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Will Oldham, Members of Flobots, Fleet Foxes, Los Lobos Rock for New Orleans Musicians

December 5, 2008 3:55 PM ET

"You've shown us what happens when people rise together, work together and dream together," Brer Rabbit of indie hip-hop group Flobots said at Tipitina's in New Orleans Thursday night. He was one of 10 musicians who visited the Crescent City for an activism workshop that concluded with "Musicians Bringing Musicians Home IV," a benefit for the non-profit group Sweet Home New Orleans.

Will Oldham (Bonnie "Prince" Billy), J. Tillman of Fleet Foxes, Nicole Atkins and Los Lobos' Steve Berlin were just some of the artists brought to New Orleans by the activist group Air Traffic Control and the Future of Music Coalition to explore ways to use their stature for social good. Three years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans remains a vital place to consider the ways that people can help, as well the ongoing need for it. Touring the city, Berlin said, "had heartbreaking moments followed by heartwarming moments as you see what people can do."

The show started with a short, hushed acoustic set by Tillman, and included a live dub set by the Bomb Squad's Hank Shocklee, and Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah performing his songs rearranged for the three-trombone lineup of the backing band, New Orleans' Bonerama, along with a version of the classic "St. James Infirmary."

"I blew a line," he said afterwards. "Normally I could get away with it, but I felt terrible doing that here where people know the song."

During the show, executive director Jordan Hirsch of Sweet Home New Orleans announced, "We've been at it since the levees broke, and we've put more than $2 million in musicians' pockets." The non-profit agency helps musicians with housing, health and work-related issues, and has worked with Air Traffic Control since the first of the retreat series in 2006. Hirsch also announced that Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard wanted to attend but couldn't, so he made a donation of $5,000.

Related Stories:
R.E.M., Nine Inch Nails, Lil Wayne Salute New Orleans at Voodoo Festival
Fats Domino Returns to New Orleans
Album Review: Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes

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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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