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Song Stories

“Don't Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)”

Monica | 1995

After producer Dallas Austin discovered 12-year-old Monica Arnold in 1991 (while she was singing Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All"), he got her a record deal. For this song, Monica's debut single, he enlisted a slew of writers including LL Cool J and Chuck D, and procured samples of songs by LL and Public Enemy. While this sassy tune about needing space seemed overly mature for Monica, who was 14 when it was released, she said it didn't necessarily reflect her experience. "Sometimes, when an older person writes a song for you, you can learn from the song after you've performed it, because you know what you're singing."

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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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