Song Stories

“Je T'Aime ... Moi Non Plus”

Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin | 1969

Serge Gainsbourg originally recorded this scandalous song, erotic moaning and all, as a duet with Brigitte Bardot. Understandably, the sultry screen star's husband strongly objected, and that version went unreleased for two decades. Remade with British actress Jane Birkin, it reached Number One in the U.K., despite (or perhaps because of) a BBC radio ban. The song was only a minor U.S. hit, but Gainsbourg proudly displayed in his home a framed copy of the Billboard chart that showed it reaching, appropriately, the Number 69 position. As for the rumor that "Je T'Aime" depicted an actual lovemaking session, Gainsbourg quipped, according to Birkin, "'Thank goodness it wasn't, otherwise I hope it would have been a long-playing record.'"

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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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