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Song Stories

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

Gil Scott-Heron | 1971

The R&B poet's socially aware signature song pitted the cultural awakening of the Civil Rights era against American consumerism. "The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner," Scott Heron rapped, laying groundwork for the hip-hop emcees who would, in the words of Chuck D, "do what we do and how we do" because of him. First released in 1970 as a spare spoken word piece, the late Scott Heron’s best-known song was reworked as a rhythmic jazz tune featuring musical partner Brian Jackson’s butterfly-like flute. The song was not overtly militant, Scott Heron sometimes argued: "My songs were always about the tone of voice rather than the words," he once 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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