Before Jay-Z and Kanye West turned it into a playground for their lyrical warfare, Otis Redding’s 1966 version of “Try a Little Tenderness” was a classic in its own right. Yes, a sampling of the tune appears on “Otis,” a track off the highly anticipated Watch the Throne LP, but the song has penetrated pop culture throughout the years, and this latest incarnation of the soulful track proves that the love affair is still strong.
Written by James Campbell and Reginald Connelly (under the pseudonym Irving King) and originally recorded in 1932 by the Ray Noble Orchestra, then again in 1933 by actress Ruth Etting and Bing Crosby, “Try a Little Tenderness” would go on to be covered by many. Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin all put their spin on it. But to this day, Redding’s rework remains most popular.
In 1986′s “Pretty in Pink,” actor Jon Cryer, playing the goofy character Duckie, danced to the song in one of the coming-of-age film’s more memorable scenes. Five years later in 1991, actor Andrew Strong sang the tune in the film “The Commitments.” Perhaps the most comical use of the song’s lyrics came in 2001′s “Shrek.” Donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy) finds himself giving love advice to the cartoon ogre who is trying to crash the wedding ceremony of his beloved Princess Fiona and the villainous Lord Farquaad. Pinning Shrek up against a closed door, Donkey breaks out into song when he wails, “You wanna hold her? Please her? Then you gotta, gotta try a little tenderness.”
Wu-Tang Clan’s Masta Killa sampled the love song on his 2004 cut “D.T.D.” and even brought bandmates Raekwon and Ghostface Killah along for the ride.
Singer Chris Brown took a crack at the classic in the 2007 flick “This Christmas,” modernizing the song by displaying his vocal chops with elongated runs and his usual Breezy swag. In May, Amber Riley, a.k.a. Mercedes Jones on “Glee,” tried a little tenderness herself and put her stamp on the track in season two of the popular show.
Now, it’s Jay-Z and Kanye. Even 45 years after its release, Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” is as influential as it was in the 1960s. Who would’ve guessed it?
What is your favorite “Try a Little Tenderness” nod? Tell us in the comments!