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Artist: Otis Redding
Album: The Otis Redding Dictionary Of Soul : Complete & Unbelievable (Stax)
Most people probably know Try a Little Tenderness from Otis Redding, who made it the classic it is today. Redding recorded it in 1966 and it went to no. 4 on the R&B charts, and to no. 25 on the Top 40 charts in the beginning of 1967, becoming his best-selling song. Redding made the song something completely new and imbued the song with meaning that wasn’t there before. But it wasn’t new. It was, in fact, a standard that had been around since the ’30s.
Who Wrote Try a Little Tenderness?
Try a Little Tenderness was originally written Reg Connelly, James Campbell and Harry Woods of England, in 1933.
Who First Recorded It?
The first recording of the song was done in 1933 by a bandleader named Ted Lewis, who played clarinet. Singer Ruth Etting followed a month later with her version. Both these versions did well. Bing Crosby recorded it soon thereafter (and again in 1955) but his version did not do as well. Later, in the mid-1940’s, Frank Sinatra did the song.
Aretha Franklin used Try a Little Tenderness for The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin, in 1962. This version was more pop then soul. This was at the beginning of her career and Columbia records had their own ideas about how to market Franklin. Later, with Atlantic, she came into her own with R&B and Soul sound.
The legendary Sam Cooke recorded it as part of a medley, along with For Sentimenal Reasons and his own song You Send Me, for the live album At the Copa Live, in 1964.
Otis Redding recorded the song for the album The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul: Complete and Unbelievable, for Stax Records, along with Booker T. and the MG’s, and Isaac Hayes and the Mar-Key horns. They were well aware of the both the Franklin and the Cooke versions, of course.
Tom Jones also recorded the song in 1969 (there are many others).
Listening to the versions below will make it clear how Otis Redding made the song a classic, rather than just a standard, and how important the arrangement is for capturing the underlying emotion of a song, not to mention the singer.
First, starting with Ruth Etting. The first two are from 1933 so they are a bit rough.
Ruth Etting – Try a Little Tenderness
Bing Crosby – Try a Little Tenderness
Frank Sinatra – Try a Little Tenderness
Aretha Franklin – Try a Little Tenderness
Sam Cooke – Try a Little Tenderness
Otis Redding – Try a Little Tenderness
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