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Song Stories

“Holocene”

Bon Iver | 2011

The keystone track on Bon Iver’s second album is named after two things: a bar that songwriter Justin Vernon patronized in Portland, Oregon, where he once had a particularly rough night over some pints, and the post–Ice Age geologic era, or an epoch, which began 12,000 years ago. “It's a good example of how all the songs are meant to come together as this idea that places are times and places are people,” Vernon said. “Our lives feel like these epochs, but really we are dust in the wind.” The song was nominated for a Grammy in 2012, and Bon Iver won Best New Artist the same year.

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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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