‘A storm came across the river’: Fate intervened during the construction of a legendary Stax track

Steve Cropper’s writing sessions with Eddie Floyd for the huge Stax smash “Knock on Wood” famously included a long riff on superstitions. But meteorology also had something to do with the song, which was a 1966 No. 1 R&B smash — and a Top 30 pop hit in both America and the UK.

As the two worked out the lyric, they were in fact surrounded by “thunder and lightning.” All that was left to do was follow that up with those immortal words: The way you love me is frightening.

“There was a storm that came across the river that night,” Cropper tells Art and Soul. “The Lorraine Motel, for those that do not know, is right on the bluff of the Mississippi River, right downtown.”

As for the track’s famous litany of bad-luck omens, those came more organically — right up until Cropper’s eureka moment with its title.

“I don’t think I had even pulled my guitar out of the case yet,” Cropper says. “We just started thinking about everything — like rabbit’s feet, salt over the shoulder, champagne glasses breaking, umbrellas, walking under ladders, black cats, all of the superstitious things. I don’t know why it won out, but it was one of the last things we thought of: I said, ‘Hey, you know what people do for good luck?’ And I said, ‘They knock on wood.’ And he said: ‘That’s it!’”

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