77. Otis Redding

Otis Redding is a singer and songwriter from Dawson, Georgia. Hi father, Otis Redding, Sr., was a part-time gospel singer, who fell ill with tubrculosis, forcing young Otis to leave formal schooling and help support the family at age fifteen. He worked various jobs while pursuing his passion for singing. His career is linked to guitarist Johnny Jenkins, who helped him win an local talent contest in 1958. In 1962, Redding accompanied Jenkins to a recording session at Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee. When the session ended early, Redding was allowed to perform two songs; the second song, “These Arms Of Mine”, became a surprise hit, and began a fruitful period of hit making with Stax.

In the early sixties, there were limited opportunities for soul music artists. Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong had helped to dismantle previous racial barriers, but they were polished performers playing a widely accepted style of popular music. With his raspy voice and animated stage presence, Otis Redding was among the first soul musicians to perform in traditionally white music venues. In 1966, Redding performed in London and San Francisco, and one can argue his career peaks with his performance headlining the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival. In December, 1967, Redding was back in the studio recording the contemplative “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay”, which became his only #1 hit, and signaled a potential artistic change for the soul balladeer. Sadly, just three days later Redding, and five members of his touring band, were killed in a small plane crash near Madison, Wisconsin.

otis-redding

Otis Redding (1941-1967), singer, songwriter

Booker T. & The M.G.’s, recording and touring group
The Memphis Horns, recording and touring group
The Bar-Kays, touring band

“Basically, I like any music that remains simple and I feel this is the formula that makes ‘soul music’ successful. When any music form becomes cluttered and/or complicated you lose the average listener’s ear. There is nothing more beautiful than a simple blues tune. There is beauty in simplicity whether you are talking about architecture, art or music.”

— Otis Redding

(excerpt from “The Flame That Died”, by Peter Labrie, Black World/Negro Digest, April 1968)

Here’s Otis in concert with Booker T. & the M.G.’s:

“GOTGOTGOTGOTGOTGOT…a Little Tenderness!” Initially a golden age ballad performed by Bing Crosby in 1933, Redding and arranger Isaac Hayes reworked the song to build to a final climax of rhythmic pleading and chanting. A smiling Otis Redding exudes charisma, a powerful, athletic presence on stage. Combined with the simple, punchy Stax house band, Otis Redding exemplifies the simple and sexy soul music of my youth.

Redding also covered the famous Rolling Stones song “(I Can’t get No) Satisfaction”. After the first few lines, Redding pays no attention to the song’s lyrics; he just makes them up. The words on this live performance differ from his recorded version:

The first time I ever heard Otis Redding was probably hearing “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” on the radio, shortly after he passed away. I doubt the local top 40 stations (KYA and KFRC) played Redding before that.

My mother took me to see the Monterey Pop movie around the same time. I’ve mentioned in this blog before that the Monterey Pop movie is easily the best and most important concert movie I have seen, and marks the high point of the San Francisco music scene of the mid- to late-sixties. As a child, the Otis Redding songs wouldn’t have made an impact. Nowadays I am enamored with the great Booker T. & The M.G.’s, and the singers that they supported. It is powerful and sweet music.

Otis Redding Song Notes:

1. Other than greatest hits compilations, the best album to begin one’s appreciation is the collector’s edition of Otis Blue.

2. The rarities “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay (Take 2)”, “Respect (Alt)” and “Try A Little Tenderness (Take 1)”, can be found on Remember Me.

3. “Hard To Handle” can be found on Pure Southern Soul. It s more famous as a hit single by The Black Crowes.

4. “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (Live)” can be found on Monterey International Pop Festival (Live).

Otis Redding Songs:

(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay, Otis Redding ✭✭✭
(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay (Take 2), Otis Redding ✭✭✭
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (Mono), Otis Redding ✭✭✭
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (Stereo), Otis Redding ✭✭✭
Respect, Otis Redding ✭✭✭
Shake (Mono), Otis Redding ✭✭✭
Shake (Stereo), Otis Redding ✭✭✭
Try A Little Tenderness, Otis Redding ✭✭✭
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Otis Redding ✭✭✭

Hard To Handle, Otis Redding ✭✭
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (Live), Otis Redding ✭✭
My Lover’s Prayer, Otis Redding ✭✭
Pain In My Heart, Otis Redding ✭✭
That’s How Strong My Love Is, Otis Redding ✭✭
Tramp, Otis Redding & Carla Thomas ✭✭
Try A Little Tenderness (Take 1), Otis Redding ✭✭
Respect (Alt), Otis Redding ✭✭

Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song), Otis Redding
I Can’t Turn You Loose, Otis Redding
I’ve Got Dreams To Remember, Otis Redding
I’ve Got Dreams To Remember (Alt), Otis Redding
Love Man, Otis Redding
These Arms Of Mine, Otis Redding

Related Songs:

Respect, Aretha Franklin ✭✭✭

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Live), The Rolling Stones ✭✭✭✭✭
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, The Rolling Stones ✭✭✭✭✭
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Stereo), The Rolling Stones ✭✭✭
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Devo ✭✭✭✭

Pain In My Heart (Live), Grateful Dead ✭✭

One thought on “77. Otis Redding

  1. R. Supan July 12, 2010 / 10:02 PM

    Although Otis Redding was slighty ahead of my time, I do remember “Dock of the Bay” and “Tramp” very well from radio airplay. I can still do a fairly good imitation of the whistling at the end of “Dock of the Bay”.

    In the plane crash that killed Otis, many of the original Bar-Kays (“Soul Finger”) were also killed. The surviving members formed a new group that was a top funk band in the 70’s.

    Otis Redding was the star of the “Stax Sound” based in Memphis, Tenn. Although the label continued to do well into the early 70’s before going bankrupt, it was never the same after Otis passed away.

    I agree with John’s ratings on the songs listed. Otis Redding was a better live performer than in the studio. I regret never having seen him in person.

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