July 28th, 2011
Wrote about Otis, “Otis”, and “Try A Little Tenderness” for the Awl.Redding recorded “Try A Little Tenderness” because Sam Cooke had. Everything Cooke touched had a golden quality; he made other singers see potential everywhere, even in material that Cooke himself hadn’t exactly pushed to the limit (If restraint was Cooke’s most potent weapon as an interpreter, it was also code for all that he stood for as a stylist). In the studio, Otis amplified Sam Cooke’s “Tenderness,” turning it from a handy little number into a vehicle for, well, soul (he nearly did the same with “Tennessee Waltz”) and splitting its plaintive core wide open. The more tenderness Redding tries, or suggests trying, the more he found it already waiting there; along with strength, passion and the clarity that the daily grind and macho posturing can block from view. In Redding’s hands, “Try A Little Tenderness” became a celebration, not only of romance, but of honesty and self-discovery. Redding, who isn’t even talking about his woman but gets just as caught up as if he were, makes the song about discovery, not problem-solving. For the narrator, “Tenderness” is an occasion to tear the house of self down.Read the whole thing here.

Wrote about Otis, “Otis”, and “Try A Little Tenderness” for the Awl.

Redding recorded “Try A Little Tenderness” because Sam Cooke had. Everything Cooke touched had a golden quality; he made other singers see potential everywhere, even in material that Cooke himself hadn’t exactly pushed to the limit (If restraint was Cooke’s most potent weapon as an interpreter, it was also code for all that he stood for as a stylist). In the studio, Otis amplified Sam Cooke’s “Tenderness,” turning it from a handy little number into a vehicle for, well, soul (he nearly did the same with “Tennessee Waltz”) and splitting its plaintive core wide open. The more tenderness Redding tries, or suggests trying, the more he found it already waiting there; along with strength, passion and the clarity that the daily grind and macho posturing can block from view. In Redding’s hands, “Try A Little Tenderness” became a celebration, not only of romance, but of honesty and self-discovery. Redding, who isn’t even talking about his woman but gets just as caught up as if he were, makes the song about discovery, not problem-solving. For the narrator, “Tenderness” is an occasion to tear the house of self down.

Read the whole thing here.