Otis Redding

  • R&B singer and songwriter born in Dawson Georgia in 1941. Died in a plane crash while traveling to a concert in 1967.
  • Redding sang in his church choir as a boy, and he learned to play guitar and piano. He sang in his high school choir, and he earned $6 each Sunday by singing gospel songs for a local radio station. By 15, he left school to work, to help support his family.
  • In 1958, he won a weekly teen talent competition 15 weeks in a row, winning $5 each time. This exposure led to an invitation to join the group Pat T. Cake and the Mighty Panthers, and he toured the Southern U.S. with the band. In 1961, he recorded a single, Shout Bamalama, on a small local record label, with his band Otis and the Shooters. The following year, a friend arranged for him to perform in Memphis for a national record company. After 2 songs, he was signed by the label.
  • These Arms of Mine was released as a single in 1962. It sold around 800,000 copies, reaching #20 on the R&B chart. Two more singles were released in 1963 – That’s What My Heart Needs and Pain In My Heart. They both charted on the R&B chart, and Redding’s career was launched. These songs were included in his first studio album, Pain In My Heart, released in 1964, which also included covers of other popular songs, including Stand By Me, Louie Louie, and Lucille.
  • Two albums were released in 1964 – The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads and Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul. The albums reached #3 and #1 respectively on the R&B album chart – Otis Blue is ranked #78 on Rolling Stones’ Greatest Albums list. Top 20 R&B hits from these albums were Chained and Bound, Mr. Pitiful, I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (a cover of the Rolling Stones’ hit) and Respect.
  • Respect, written by Redding, is the same song that Aretha Franklin made famous in 1967. Franklin’s version, with a few changes to the lyrics, became the anthem for the feminist movement – not at all what Redding’s version was, which was a plea from a desperate man who would give his woman anything she wants, as long as she respects him when he brings money home. No “sock it to me” or the spelling of R-E-S-P-E-C-T in Redding’s version.
  • In 1966 and 1967, 3 more soul albums were released. All were top 5 on the R&B chart. Three singles charted the highest – a cover of the 1930’s standard Try A Little Tenderness, as well as 2 duets with Carla Thomas – Tramp and Knock On Wood.
  • Redding performed at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. He was a huge success, a breakthrough of sorts in that his music wowed white audiences as well as black. In early December that year, he recorded a new song, with a new sound influenced by the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers album. The record company didn’t like it – it didn’t sound like R&B to them. Redding thought it was his best song – (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay. Several days after recording it, he was killed in a plane crash in Wisconsin. He was 26 years old.
  • The single (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay was released posthumously in December 1968. It became his only single to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, selling over 4 million copies worldwide. It was the first single ever to go to #1 after the death of the artist. The album The Dock of the Bay was released in February, and it became his highest charting album in the U.S. and UK. Four more studio albums were released after his death, with 1 as recently as 1992, and 6 more singles managed to break into the top 20 on the R&B chart.
  • Redding was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay is ranked at #26 on the Rolling Stone GOAT songs list, and Redding is #21 on its Greatest Artists of All Time list. In 2011, Rolling Stone readers picked Redding as the #1 Greatest R&B/Soul Singer of All Time (ahead of Aretha, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, etc. – WOW!). In 1999, he was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award.
  • Imagine what might have been had he lived beyond 26. Check out Redding’s version of Satisfaction, recorded at his Monterey concert. Maybe better than the Stones’? Pretty amazing!

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