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Song Stories

“Mustang Sally”

Wilson Pickett | 1966

Soul journeyman Mack Rice wrote and recorded this song first in 1965. He originally titled it "Mustang Mama," until his friend Aretha Franklin took note of the "ride, Sally, ride" chorus. Rice recalled, "She said, 'Why don’t you change the song to "Mustang Sally"? 'Cause that’s what you’re sayin’ a lot of.'" It didn’t become a national treasure until Wilson Pickett put his spin on it one year later, but his version almost never saw the light of day, thanks to a last-minute studio mishap. Pickett had already finished recording the tune when the tape flew off the reel and broke into pieces. Undeterred, seasoned studio engineer Tom Dowd hand-taped the reel back together.

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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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