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Song Stories

“Nowhere to Run”

Martha and the Vandellas | 1965

Martha Reeves was a secretary for Motown A&R guy Mickey Stevenson who stepped in when Mary Wells didn’t show for a session. Fast forward a few years and several upbeat Motown classics, and “Nowhere to Run” is another Top 10 hit for the office worker turned soul diva. Although the song is about a bad love affair, its musical inspiration came from the mean streets of Detroit. According to song co-composer Lamont Dozier, "I was sitting at the piano one day playing this groove, and it came out sounding kind of military because I was looking out my window and there were tanks coming down the street.”

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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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