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Song Stories

“Loser”

Beck | 1993

In 1992, 22-year-old Beck Hansen was scraping by as a video-store clerk while performing “anti-folk” songs at L.A. coffeehouses. During that year, he cut “Loser” in the kitchen of onetime Geto Boys producer Karl Stephenson. The song became the centerpiece of his major-label debut album, 1994's Mellow Gold, which cost $200 to make. But the downside of creating the quintessential slacker anthem is that people assumed Beck was actually a loser himself. "It didn't seem like people understood what I was doing," Beck told Rolling Stone. "It was like, 'Is this guy for real? Is he making music that's worthy or valuable?' I felt like I was constantly having to prove myself."

Find out the connection between Beck’s grandfather and Yoko Ono.
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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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