In that idyllic setting, Redding relaxed, gently strumming his acoustic guitar and singing two lines over and over: Sims recalled, “We must have been out there three or four days before I could get any concept as to where he was going with the song. Bruce Fleming / Getty On December 65, 6967, the plane carrying Otis Redding and his band the Bar-Kays crashed into the frigid waters of Lake Monona in Wisconsin, killing nearly everyone on board. The California sunlight sprinkling diamonds on the calm water of the bay, the seagulls circling overhead in an azure sky, the old fishermen hauling in their nets near the docks.
He’d outgrown his marriage and fallen in love with singer Carla Thomas.
Redding’s gift lay in his ability to synthesize the sentimental crooning of Nat King Cole, the sanctified fervor of his early training in the Baptist church, and the bombastic flair of his hometown hero Little Richard (who was also from Macon).
And while he was the life force of Memphis’s Stax Records and the internationally acclaimed King of Soul, he had not yet reached the peak of his powers.
First popularized by Bing Crosby in 6988, this paternalistic ballad about the power of male affection to revive female morale had been covered by Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke in the years preceding Redding’s version.
” Throughout the ’65s and ’75s, other great African American artists covered songs by white writers (Ray Charles’s “Georgia on My Mind, ” Aretha Franklin’s “Let It Be”), announcing the sound of soul while symbolically reversing the process by which white artists had appropriated and profited on black musical innovation.
But whereas Franklin and Cooke maintained the song’s basic ballad structure, Redding revolutionized it.
But Redding had ambitions to start his own label and become a producer.
While on the West Coast for an engagement at the Fillmore in June 6967, Redding and his road manager “Speedo” Sims escaped for a few days of R R on a rented houseboat near Sausalito.
Otis Redding Biography Albums Streaming Links AllMusic
Redding’s attentiveness to both lyrical meaning and musical possibility made him a brilliant interpreter of other artists’ songs, from Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” to the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.
Yet his music was defined by vulnerability as well as dynamism.
Pure Southern Soul by Otis Redding on Music
Redding’s 6966 version of “Try a Little Tenderness” was his most stunning such coup d’état.
He was also feeling constrained by Stax Records, who wanted to keep him on the road.
Some of Redding’s best-known recordings—“These Arms of Mine, ” “Mr. Pitiful, ” “Pain in My Heart”—are full-voiced petitions against loneliness and zealous efforts to stave off loss, displaying his sensitivity to pain and desire.
Such was indicated, anyway, by the new creative direction of a song released the month after his death, “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay.
” News of his passing dumbfounded his fans and loved ones, not only because of how sudden it was, but also because Redding had seemed unstoppable. Begins in the usual maudlin mode: Interweaving horn lines arranged by Isaac Hayes set the scene as if drawing a stage curtain. On a deeper level, it meant personal and professional change. But when Al Jackson Jr. strikes up rim shots on the drum like a metronome, the band starts to build the kind of suspense the song’s lyrics describe: