Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 264
Fri. Nov 29, 2013
“Try A Little Tenderness”
I remember of one those nights before I left the Alamo City, my friends and I were at our favorite dive bar Scandals in San Antonio. One of my buddies, a fellow poet born Down Under, Ricardo, was getting really passionate about life, like he always did after a few cold ones and keeps talking about if we wanted to be successful in anything we had to channel our inner Otis. “It’s your little Otis” my poet friend kept repeating over and over enthusiastically. I knew exactly what he meant. Instead of listening to the li’l devil or angel on our shoulders, Ricardo believed we had to embrace the essence of our inner Otis Redding. And now every time I hear “Try A Little Tenderness” I think of that night at Scandals and my poet friend talking so ardently about Otis Redding.
Did you know, although at first Redding felt some hesitation about recording “Tenderness,” but Otis finally did what does best – by honoring Sam Cooke and crooning his own immortal version of this vintage song sung by such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme and Bing Crosby. After Otis put the finishing touches of “Tenderness” Redding famously said, ““Try A Little Tenderness” I cut that motherfucker, It’s a brand new song now.” This Soul Stax legend was so right, after taking his turn at the microphone, “Try A Little Tenderness” would always be remembered as an Otis Redding song.
Jim Stewart knew “Try A Little Tenderness” was a hit right after Otis finished recording his immortal version of this classic song as he told Scott Freeman in his book Otis!: The Otis Redding Story, “That one performance is so special and unique that [“Try A Little Tenderness”] expresses who he is. That to me is Otis Redding. And if you want to wrap it up, just listen to “Try A Little Tenderness.”
So why is it exactly that fans of Redding, are still connecting to his music after all these years since his tragic death in 1967? The reason is reflected in this beautifully written sentence that captures the soul of why we love Otis Redding so much, when Carol Cooper wrote, “Even though the poetry of the blues is characteristically melancholy, Otis Redding always used to love as a metaphor for redemption from the wages of sin and injustice.” Amen.
One of my favorite versions of “Try A Little Tenderness” has to be this one from his Live in London & Paris album, Otis sounds like a possessed parson preaching his sermon on love especially in this live version in London.
Hearing this and any live rendition of “Try A Little Tenderness” reminds me of this quote from Robert Gordon, author of Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion, when he told NPR, “I think you can get the sense from Otis Redding’s records what it was like to be around him. You get the sense that his personality was in constant conflict with his skin trying to bust out even bigger. I think about the horn players who had been accustomed to playing whole notes for a full measure at a time and Otis is leaning into their faces: ‘No, no, no! Do it like this!’ And they’re scrambling with their horns and everything. When you’re with Otis Redding, it’s all about trying to keep up with Otis Redding.”
The way that Otis band tried to keep up with him on stage as he wailed away crooning “Try A Little Tenderness” night after night, reminded me of Jim Morrison, a huge fan of Redding, wanted to be remembered after he was gone when The Doors lead singer/poet once famously said, “I see myself as a huge fiery comet, a shooting star. Everyone stops, points up and gasps “Oh look at that!” Then- whoosh, and I’m gone…and they’ll never see anything like it ever again… and they won’t be able to forget me- ever.”
Remarkably unforgettable that’s what you reverberate when you experience “Try A Little Tenderness.” I believe if Otis had lived he would have become the undisputed King of Soul & Rock n’ Roll. You can feel it in every muscle, bone and inch of you; and “Try A Little Tenderness” is proof, to what my poet friend was trying to tell us, you can do anything in life by channeling the essence of your Little Otis. He was so right because by evoking such passionate dedication the way that Redding did on stage, you will be more than heard, your creative spirit will be felt for generations to come. So this weekend put a little Otis Redding in your life. Embracing “Try A Little Tenderness,” today, will do your mind and body good by ingesting a little dose of Otis in your soul.