Song Stories

“El Condor Pasa”

Simon & Garfunkel | 1970

Indicating a growing interest in world music that would flower in Paul Simon's solo career, Simon & Garfunkel's "El Condor Pasa" set a haunting, dramatic melody to enigmatic lyrics expressing preferences to be a hammer, not a nail; a sparrow, not a snail; and a forest, not a street. As Simon disclosed in Rolling Stone, he heard the song performed on a record by the Argentinean-Uruguayan group Los Incas. Recalled Simon, "I said, 'I love this melody. I'm going to write lyrics to it. I just love it, and we'll just sing it right over the track.'"

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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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