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Song Stories

“Gentle on My Mind”

Glen Campbell | 1967

Glen Campbell heard songwriter John Hartford's original version of "Gentle on My Mind" playing on the radio and fell in love with this song about memories of a lost love. As is often the case with songwriters, Hartford’s inspiration came from an unusual source: the film Dr. Zhivago. "I know watching the movie gave me a feeling that caused me to start writing, but as far as saying it came from that, I don't know. It just came from experience,” he said. “While I was writing it, if I had any idea that it was going to be a hit, it probably would have come out differently and it wouldn't have been a hit. The song came real fast, in about 15 minutes. It was a blaze, a blur."

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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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