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Friday, December 2, 2011

"Hard to Handle"

Otis Redding - Hard to Handle (1968)

So Otis Redding was the Tupac of his day.

This track is off of the second of four posthumous albums filled with mostly previously unreleased songs. Released almost a year after his death, this was the forth single off of the album, and it didn't chart as well as the others, but has stood the test of time, being covered by many artists, including being a live favorite of The Blues Brothers, a campy production number sung by Mae West and the breakout hit of the 90s blues-rock band The Black Crowes.

The back up band here is effectively Booker T. & the M.G.'s. Drums, guitar, keyboard and bass were all played by members of the group originally brought together as the Stax Records house band. Horns on the track are by The Memphis Horns, another group affiliated with Stax. When you are backed by ten of the top soul session musicians in the world, you are bound to make a gem. Put Otis Redding's soulful wail on top and there is no doubt this song swings.

The lyrics are so boastful. This style of music goes back a long way, blues musicians, and Irish folk songs both make use of a I'm-the-best-man-for-you kind of structure. Today, modern rap music is full of boastful rhymes about the singer's wealth and sexual prowess. Otis sings about what a great lover he is, and the best damn back-up group assembled helps him sell it. You got to give it to the man, even after his death he's helping men get laid.

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