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Song Stories

“Out of Left Field”

Percy Sledge | 1967

After Percy Sledge helped put Muscle Shoals, Alabama, on the map with "When a Man Loves a Woman," local songwriters Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham got in on the action, writing songs for Sledge in hopes of getting them cut and released as singles. One of their tunes, "Out of Left Field," was only a mid-chart hit, but it's now considered a soul classic. "People say it's a baseball metaphor, but I think of it as a farm metaphor, like an old tractor bringin' some hay in," said Penn. "I love it 'cause it's a heck of a way to say, 'She walked in out of nowhere.'"

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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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