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Song Stories

“Cult of Personality”

Living Colour | 1973

Political statements in heavy metal became common during the late Eighties, as evidenced by Metallica's "Disposable Heroes," Megadeth's "Peace Sells" and Living Colour's "Cult of Personality." Living Colour's Vernon Reid wanted the latter's lyrics to focus on the mass appeal of certain world leaders. As the guitarist said, "I was thinking about how Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were all very handsome. They had very profound things to say, and I just thought it was really weird that these are cats that are very important politically/socially, but they also look like matinee idols." "Cult" not only features a Zeppelin-esque guitar riff played by Reid, but it also has the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, uttering the final quote in the song.

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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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