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Song Stories

“Unchained Melody”

The Righteous Brothers | 1965

Written by famed soundtrack composer Alex North (with Hy Zaret doing lyrics), this evergreen was originally the theme for the prison flick Unchained, but it has gone on to be recorded countless times in more than 100 languages. The Righteous Brothers were not the first to take it to Number One, yet their version, sung by Bobby Hatfield, charted twice, thanks to its appearance in a pivotal scene of the 1990 film Ghost. According to Hatfield, "It was kind of cool because Bill [Medley] was singing lead on all the songs then, so it was like, "Wow, who's that little s--t with the high voice?"

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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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