When Something Is Wrong With My Baby

Album: Double Dynamite (1966)
Charted: 42
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Songfacts®:

  • Couples can develop a kind of empathy where they feel what the other if feeling; in this song, Sam & Dave sing about this bond. "When something is wrong with my baby," they sing,
    then "something is wrong with me."

    In the second verse, Sam Moore explains that his friends tell him she's no good, but they don't understand that if he leaves her, he'll just feel her pain.
  • Like most Sam & Dave songs, this was written and produced by the Stax Records team of Dave Porter and Isaac Hayes. Sam & Dave signed to the label in 1965 and had their first hit in 1966 with "Hold On, I'm Comin'." Most of their songs were uptempo, but they slowed it down for "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" and had modest hit with the song in 1967. Their signature song, "Soul Man," came later that year.
  • This was recorded at Stax studios in Memphis with the label's house band, Booker T. & the MG's, which was so good they released their own songs as instrumentals and often charted with them, most famously with "Green Onions." Their guitarist, Steve Cropper, co-wrote and produced many of Otis Redding's hits for the label.
  • Otis Redding and Carla Thomas covered this song in 1969, taking it to #109 in the US. The most popular cover, though, is by Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville in 1989; their version appeared on Ronstadt's album Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind and went to #78. The album was a return to pop music for Ronstadt, whose previous album was Mariachi music. She teamed with Neville on four of the song, including the first single, "Don't Know Much," which was a huge hit, going to #2 in the US.

    Ronstadt's "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" was produced by Peter Asher and recorded at Skywalker Sound, a studio in Northern California owned by George Lucas. It features the Tower of Power horn session, who she always wanted to work with. Their sax player, Emilio Castillo, told Songfacts about the session: "What really stood out to me was how 'hands-on" Linda Ronstadt was. She knew exactly what she wanted and was also very clear about what she didn't want, and I really respected her for that.

    The horns on the original were done by the fabulous Memphis Horns and we basically just expanded upon their original arrangement, which only had two horns. We revoiced the arrangement for five horns and added a few signature ToP horn riffs on the ride-out.

    Right out of the gate we did a horn chord that swelled out of nowhere, which was not on the original recording. That announced that ToP Horns were in the house. The song just built and built from there and the horns complemented the incredibly soulful vocals that Linda and Aaron had put on all along the way until a reprise at the very end of the song with a blistering guitar solo where the horns were featured all the way out."
  • This song has been used in these movies:

    Baby Driver (2017)
    Stand Up Guys (2012)
    Julia (2008)
    A Family Thing (1996)
    Dead Presidents (1995)
  • Artists to cover this song include Charlie Rich, Cissy Houston, Johnny Gill, Sonny James and Timi Yuro.

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