only love can break your heart
an idiot abroad, season finale

music friday: otis redding, “i've been loving you too long”

I’m grading papers, and don’t have the time that Otis deserves, but I’ve written about him many times in the past, so I can just plagiarize myself. A little more than a year ago, “That’s How Strong My Love Is” was the Random Friday selection, and there I wrote:

I can never talk about Otis Redding without emphasizing this fact: when he died, Otis Redding was 26 years old. He sang with the enthusiasm of youth, but he had the soul of a much older man, and that came out in his singing as well. It is pretty much impossible to listen to him and believe he never saw 27.

My favorite Otis song changed over the years. For a long time it was “Try a Little Tenderness” in its many live versions. Live in Europe was where I first caught up to it. It built from a tender beginning to a frenetic, audience-pleasing conclusion, and it always got me going. Funny thing is, I think my mom understood his version more than I did. “Try a Little Tenderness” was a favorite song of hers … I think Sinatra’s version on Nice ‘n’ Easy was the one that got played in our house. One time, I asked/encouraged/forced her to listen to Redding’s version from Live in Europe. When it was over, she pointed out that the super-charged ending had nothing to do with the concept embodied in the song’s title. Nowadays, I think she might have been right.

And so, if you asked me now what my favorite Otis Redding song is, I would choose “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” It kills in the live versions, but the original studio version kills, as well. And while Aretha might have given us the definitive word on Otis’s “Respect,” no one can match him on “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” (if you want an example of excess, go to Ike and Tina’s blowjob version).

Here is the original:

Here is the most famous live version, from Monterey Pop (you get "Satisfaction" as a bonus):

“This is the Love Crowd, right? We all love each other, don’t we? Am I right? Let me hear ya say yeah!”

If you really have a burning desire to see Ike and Tina slurp their way through the song, here it is:

And, because I’ve got to get the taste of that out of my mouth, and because even if my mom was right, she was wrong, here’s “Try a Little Tenderness” by the greatest soul singer of them all:


One of the saddest lines on any recording is at the end of Otis at Monterey, when he has blown everyone away and finished off with “Tenderness.” “I got to go now,” he says, “and I don’t want to go.” Six months later, he was dead. The only comparable moment comes on “Mountain Jam,” released on the Allman Brothers album Eat a Peach. Duane introduces the band, and as the track fades out, you hear him say “I’m Duane Allman, thank you.” When that album came out, Duane was already dead.