The unidentified R&B tune that opened Sunday’s episode of ”The Sopranos” has set off a flurry of online speculation about the singer and title of the song. ”Does anyone know,” read a message board post on the show’s official website, ”PLEASE HELP.” Various online guesses about the artist have included soul legends Percy Sledge and Ray Charles.
But the gravelly crooner-in-question is actually the late Otis Redding with ”My Lover’s Prayer,” a 1966 ballad currently available on his ”Love Songs” collection. ”Prayer” recurs throughout the episode (which re-airs Saturday at 12:25 a.m.) as hospitalized gunshot victim Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) teeters between life and death. EW’s TV critic Ken Tucker thinks the song strikes a chord with viewers because of the way it accents the highly emotional hospital scenes: ”Redding’s raw, ravaged voice serves as a metaphor for Christopher’s agony.”
This isn’t the first time the show’s music has piqued such a strong viewer response, either. HBO was deluged with calls and e-mails about Andreas Bocelli’s ”Con Te Partiro,” which was featured in a recent Sopranos-go-to-Italy episode. Last year there was a scramble for the show’s moody theme, ”Woke Up This Morning” by Alabama 3, which is now featured on the hit soundtrack, ”The Sopranos — Music From the HBO Original Series.”
The music works so well in the show, according to Tucker, because it taps into the Scorsese-like tradition of underscoring on-screen violence with rock and soul classics: ”They’re revitalizing what was threatening to become a cliché.” Of course, having fans rush online to find out about an obscure R&B ditty doesn’t hurt the show’s buzz factor one bit.