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Song Stories

“Between the Wars”

Billy Bragg | 1985

With no backing but his own electric guitar, Billy Bragg sang "Between the Wars" as a first-person narrative of a miner hoping his hard work would be rewarded by care from the government his efforts helped support. Bragg wrote it while Welsh miners were on strike, his interest in penning politically conscious material spurred by Leon Rosselson's folk tune "The World Turned Upside Down." As Bragg remembered, he wrote half of it in a friend's bathroom, "and she wanted to use the bathroom. So I finished the last verse on a bench on Wimbledon Common."

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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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