Song Stories

“A Long December”

Counting Crows | 1996

A year before this song was released, a friend of frontman Adam Duritz was hit by a car, leading to a lengthy hospital stay. Duritz, who visited his pal frequently, wrote this song -- with its California imagery -- after hanging out with some buddies late one night and before another hospital visit the next morning. "It's a song about looking back on your life and seeing changes happening, and for once me, looking forward and thinking, 'Ya know, things are gonna change for the better -- 'maybe this year will be better than the last.'"

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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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