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Song Stories

“Tonight's the Night”

The Shirelles | 1960

The lead cut and title track from this girl group's debut album, "Tonight's the Night" was written by 19-year-old bandmember Shirley Owens, who sings lead, and producer Luther Dixon. The band from Passaic, New Jersey met in high school, first calling themselves the Pequellos. The song's frank thoughts about sexual and emotional surrender was racy for the time, but that didn't stop the Chiffons from cutting a similar version immediately after the original came out. "We were the first female group to write some of our own material," band member Beverly Lee recalls. "We did have some say-so in our writing."

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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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