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Song Stories

“The A Team”

Ed Sheeran | 2011

This debut track from the then-20-year-old British singer-songwriter has a dark story behind it. Sheeran says he culls songwriting inspiration from "viewing other people's situations," which, for the heroine in "The A Team," involves drug addiction and prostitution that began as a teen. Sheeran paints the woman's trials with haunting imagery such as "But lately her face seems/Slowly sinking, wasting/Crumbling like pastries." "I did a gig at a homeless shelter, [and the song] is about one of the women there. It's her story," he said.

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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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