Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mo going Po : Bing - Otis : Trying Tenderness

Can you actually hear the sound of modernity and postmodernity ?

I think you can, probably Rob Bowman thinks you can too.

To demonstrate, let me first direct you to YouTube where you can find about three dozen different versions of "Try a Little Tenderness".

The ones I want you to particularly hear are by Bing Crosby, the one  done in the mid-Thirties, and the ones Otis Redding  did live, before his tragic death in late 1967.

The song was written by two successful British songwriters in the early 1930s.

The first hit version, by Ted Lewis's band, is the most melodious of all of them - as long as the slightly creepy, jokey, cold male singer isn't about.

Male is probably the operative word here : he basically says that women's only happiness is love (not success) and love needn't cost a man much and you'll soon have her once again eating out of your hands, doing the dishes and the wash, tending your babies etc.

Another early version is by chanteuse Ruth Etting, and being a woman who can feel herself into the situation of the down on her luck Depression Era female subject of the song, she does a very soulful version, particularly for that early in the era of modernity.

All the big male singers of the era seemed to have done the song.


One of the best known was by Bing, singing in his sleep and phoning it in from the golf course : it comes across as that smooth, pure, perfect, uncommitted, distant.

And he sang it same ever after : for how can you top perfection ?

The Age of Certitude knew everything, never made a mistake, never sweated, reflected or agonized - its favourite type of singer (Bing) reflected all those modernist virtues to a t (or tee).


Otis, by contrast, always sweated, always was hoarse, ragged, emotionally committed --- and never sang any song the same way two times through.

Otis personified the spirit of post-modernity.

And us post-modernists, though he and we didn't know it yet, loved him for it.

But granddad's Der Bing ?

We didn't quite get it ....

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