Recorded in a farmhouse in Brownstown, Indiana, “Pink Houses” was inspired by a tableau that the heartland rocker witnessed on a highway overpass. Just as the song's opening verse tells it, there was an elderly African-American gentleman “sitting on the porch of his pink shack with a cat in his arms,” John Mellencamp told Rolling Stone. “He waved, and I waved back. That's how the song started.” This song, and the Uh-huh album it was taken from, won over previously skeptical music critics with its rootsy populist rock.
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.”