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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

T is for Three "Tender" Tunes

If you check only the Wikipedia post for the song Try a Little Tenderness, you'll find the listing dominated by references to Otis Redding. While he did perform the benchmark version in the mid-1960s, a live version of which you can watch here, the song has a much richer history.

Here's a version of the song, written by "Irving King" (James Campbell and Reginald Connelly) and Harry M. Woods, performed by Francis Albert Sinatra; click on the button on the upper right side of the page. Interesting that this version has an intro not generally used.

The Wikipedia notes a bunch of other folks who also recorded, including "on December 8, 1932 by the Ray Noble Orchestra (with vocals by Val Rosing) followed by both Ruth Etting and Bing Crosby in 1933.

But in my Top Pop Singles, under the Otis Redding listing for the song, it says: "#6 hit for Ted Lewis in 1933", though the Wikipedia doesn't note Lewis at all. Here's the Ted Lewis version (song #8), with a lengthy instrumental before the lyrics come in.

Who IS this Ted Lewis? According to my Top Memories, 1890-1954 book, this song charted for him in February of 1933 for 10 weeks, getting up to #6. But he had 101 Top 20 hits between 1920 and 1934; Tenderness being the 92nd. Among his #1 hits:
When My Baby Smiles at Me (1920-7 weeks), All By Myself (1921-4 weeks), O! Katharina (1925-1 week), Just A Gigilo (1931-2 weeks; yes, the song later covered by David Lee Roth, formerly of Van Halen), In A Shanty in Old Shanty Town (1932-10 weeks), and Lazybones (1933-4 weeks).

Ruth Etting also charted with Tenderness on 3/18/33 for two weeks. She had 62 Top 20 Hits between 1926 and 1937, this being the 59th, with her biggest hit Life Is A Song in 1935 (2 weeks at #1).

Otis Redding's version got to #25 in the pop charts and #4 on the rhythm and blues charts in December 1966. The song is listed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is #204 in a list of Rolling Stone magazine's greatest songs. Otis' biggest hit, unfortunately, was posthumous: (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay in the winter of 1968, which went to #1 won a number of Grammy awards, as well as citations by Rolling Stone (#28), R&RHOF, RIAA, NPR and BMI

Before Otis, Aretha Franklin had a minor hit (#100 in 1962), and after Three Dog Night (#29 in 1969). But it has become a staple in the repertoire of many an artist.

Paul Simon's second album after his breakup with Art Garfunkel was the eclectic There Goes Rhymin' Simon, featuring songs such as Kodachrome and Loves Me Like A Rock. The 1973 collection also featured a lovely song called Tenderness, which Like Loves Me Like a Rock features the vocal stylings of the gospel group the Dixie Hummingbirds. (Unfortunately, all I could find is this cover version.) The album went to #2 and signaled a successful solo career to come, featuring albums such as Still Crazy After All these Years (#1 in 1975) and Graceland (#3 in 1986).

Paul Simon won the very first Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2007, succeeded by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.

The 1956 Elvis Presley hit Love Me Tender had a peculiar songwriting history, explained here. Briefly, it was written as Aura Lee nearly a century earlier. The adaptation was credited to Presley and the songwriting adapter's wife, neither of whom actually wrote it. It was the title song of Elvis' film debut.

I learned Lee in grade school so found Love Me Tender as somehow peculiar. In fact, the school kids made up a song to Aura Lee, sung with the Elvis enunciation:

When you must take medicine
Take it orally
That's because the other way
Is more painfully.

Orally, orally
Take it orally
That's because...the other way...
Is more painfully.

Anyway, here's the classic Presley tune, the fourth of a dozen and a half #1 hits in the United States. (The 31-song ELV1S album contained #1s in the US and/or the UK.)



Sylvia K said...

Marvelous look back at some great musicians and some great "tunes"! Fun post, Roger!

Have a great week!


Mara said...

I don't know about the medicine song, I think I have to prefer 'Love me tender'! Great T-post.

anthonynorth said...

This brought back some great memories, tender all.

Sistertex said...

Great post! I love the artists you talked about. I particularly love the song 'Try a Little Tenderness'...I was a big fan of so many of Otis Reddings songs. Gosh hadn't thought about that song for a long time....guess I've just been 'Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay'. :)

Hildred said...

Wonderful memories, and such great advice.

RuneE said...

It ought to be the season for Tenderness.

Tania said...

Great and interesting post for T!:-)

Janie said...

Interesting post on tenderness and tender memories.

Joy said...

Can't beat Otis's version for pure emotion and soul. Thanks for the trip back in time.

Tumblewords: said...

Truly tender tunes! Excellent post!

Paula Scott Molokai Girl Studio said...

Lovely! A lot of research went into the tunes with tenderness. Thanks!

Beverley Baird said...

Wow - this is an awesome amount of research on some great artists of the past. Love those old tunes!

Rose said...

Some of my favorites here! Amazing how many "original" songs turn out to be re-makes of an older version. I never knew the connection between "Aura Lee" and "Love Me Tender" before this. Another fascinating post, Roger!

Judi said...

Great post! Otis Redding and Paul Simon are two of my personal favorites.

jay said...

Wonderful! I loved Otis Redding. I loved Simon and Garfunkel too, but when they split I found I loved Garfunkel's voice, but had no time for Simon. Interesting. Together they were great, apart ... well, not so much.

Fascinating stuff about Elvis's song. The schoolkids' version is hilarious. LOL!

Kim, USA said...

Great T those old standard songs than today's music. Thanks for visiting at my site I do appreciate it!

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