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Song Stories

“Stan”

Eminem | 2000

One of Eminem’s best-known songs and biggest hits, “Stan” details a fan’s descent into dangerous obsession through his letters to his rapper hero. Eminem once explained the title character to Rolling Stone: “He’s crazy for real, and he thnks I’m crazy, but I try to help him at the end of the song. It kinda shows the real side of me.” The song features a prominent sample of Dido’s “Thank You,” which was a concurrent hit. Facing charges of homophobia, Eminem performed “Stan” at the 2001 Grammy Awards with the openly gay Elton John singing the chorus.

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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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