Artist: Otis Redding
Song Try A Little Tenderness
Writers: Campbell, Connelly, Woods
Year Released: 1966 (Otis Redding Version)
Why it’s a “Penn’s Pick”:
Originally written back in the early 1930’s and recorded by a wide range of artists including Jimmy Durante, Etta James, Three Dog Night, Cyndi Lauper and Florence and The Machine, Try A Little Tenderness is the epitome of a song that was strong enough to resonate from generation to generation and stand the test of time.
While the versions performed by the aforementioned artists are all very good in their own right, there is 1 particular version that trumps them all, at least in this writer’s opinion.
Recorded and released in 1966, Otis Redding breathed new life into the song with a stellar arrangement that kicks off slow and “tender,” followed by gradually increasing in intensity via new elements entering the mix until it culminates in a sectional climax that sends chills down your spine every time you hear it.
As a songwriter, 2 important lessons that can be learned from this are to ALWAYS sing it like you mean it (you need to make your audience BELIEVE in what you’re singing about in order for them to fully connect with the song), and to take the listener on a dynamic journey that fully engrosses them at a profound level within each section (a strong melody alone just isn’t enough).
To see and hear how this is done first hand, check out this live performance of Redding performing the song on the Stax/Volt Revue tour in Norway, 1967. It includes him returning for 2 encores, both of which are so intense that it almost causes a stampede in front of the stage!