NBA Legend Oscar Robertson On His Favorite Tunes

Oscar Robertson had his legacy enshrined when he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame back in 1980. But more recently, he began advocating for regular cancer screenings after beating the disease. Robertson shares the tunes that continue to inspire him for Tell Me More's regular series, "In Your Ear."

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now, it's time for the occasional series we like to call In Your Ear. That's where some of our guests tell us about the music they listen to for relaxation, inspiration and everything else.

And, as basketball fans are looking forward to the NBA finals, it's a great time to lay up the musical play list for Hall of Famer, Oscar Robertson. Here's what's playing in his ear.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG")

THE TEMPTATIONS: (Singing) I know you want to leave me, but I refuse to let you go. If I have to beg, plead for your sympathy, I don't mind 'cause you mean that much to me. Ain't too proud to beg, sweet darling. Please don't leave me, girl.

OSCAR ROBERTSON: "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" by The Temptations.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG")

TEMPTATIONS: (Singing) Ain't too proud to plead, baby, baby. Please don't leave me, girl. Don't you go. Now, I heard about...

ROBERTSON: Actually, it's a song that's about young women or young ladies and he said, I'm not too proud to beg and I don't know if you know all the lyrics or not, but that's the way it goes, brother.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG")

TEMPTATIONS: (Singing) ...keep you by my side. Ain't too proud to beg, sweet darling. Please, don't leave me, girl.

ROBERTSON: The second song I'm listening to is once, twice, "Three Times a Lady" by Lionel Richie. That's for my wife.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THREE TIMES A LADY")

LIONEL RICHIE: (Singing) Thanks for the times that you've given me. The memories are all in my mind. And now that we've come...

ROBERTSON: So I like that song because, whenever I hear that song, I think of her - not only as a wife, but as a friend. If you can say that your wife as a friend, that's a wonderful thing, really. If you can talk to your wife about different things. My wife is a very artistic lady, who made me aware of a lot of things with the arts and I'm very happy about that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THREE TIMES A LADY")

RICHIE: (Singing) You're once, twice, three times a lady and I love you.

ROBERTSON: And the third song is one that I guess that is going to bring a lot stars and stripes to a lot of people. It's Ray Charles and "America the Beautiful."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL")

RAY CHARLES: (Singing) Oh, beautiful, for heroes proved in liberating strife.

ROBERTSON: It makes me want to stand up and cheer when he comes on and sings that song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL")

CHARLES: (Singing) Who, more than self, our country loved and mercy more than life.

MARTIN: That was basketball legend Oscar Robertson telling us what's playing in his ear. To listen to our recent conversation with him, please check out our website. Just go to NPR.org and select TELL ME MORE from the programs page.

Make sure to listen tomorrow when the Barber Shop guys will weigh in on the NBA playoffs and give their take on which team will take the title.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL")

CHARLES: (Singing) 'Til all success be nobleness and every gain divine. You know, when I was in school, we used to sing it something like this. Listen here. Oh, beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain...

MARTIN: Coming up, there's been a lot of debate about whether this is or is not a post-racial society with President Obama in the White House, so how is that debate playing out on the American stage?

KYLE BASS: In some ways, I've never felt that I've lived in a country that was more racialized, at least in my lifetime.

MARTIN: Ahead of this weekend's Tony Awards, we talk about the role of race in American theatre. That is next on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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