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Song Stories

“Why Do Fools Fall in Love”

Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers | 1956

"Fools" was a Top 10 record for these five New York teens in the Fifties, with disputes over who actually wrote the song having raged since the Eighties. But what’s certain is this: Frankie Lymon was a boy soprano with a rare gift, he improvised some of his parts, and this arrangement of the group’s signature song influenced an entire generation of vocal groups, particularly its girl singers. Diana Ross took “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” into the Top 10 again in 1981, and Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes wrote in her autobiography, “I know exactly where I got my voice. Frankie Lymon. If he hadn’t made a record called ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love?’ I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this today.”

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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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