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Song Stories

“The Words That Maketh Murder”

PJ Harvey | 2011

PJ Harvey long intended to write an album about world affairs that you could also sing along to, which came to fruition in 2011 with Let England Shake. She made a conscious effort to avoid standard protest-song form on the album and on lead single "The Words That Maketh Murder," explaining "The words are very heavy going...the music I tried to make as uplifting and beautiful and rousing as I could...to offset this weight that was in the words," she said. The refrain "What if I take my problems to the United Nations?" pays homage to Eddie Cochran's lyrics in "Summertime Blues."

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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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