Spotlight on ……
Otis Ray Redding, Jr. (September 9, 1941 – December 10, 1967) was an American soul singer. Often called the "King of Soul", he is renowned for an ability to convey strong emotion through his voice. According to the website of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (where he was inducted in 1989), Redding's name is "synonymous with the term soul, music that arose out of the black experience in America through the transmutation of gospel and rhythm and blues into a form of funky, secular testifying." In addition, rock critic Jon Landau said in 1967, "Otis Redding is rock & roll". Redding died in a plane crash at the age of 26, one month before his biggest hit, "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay", was released.
Redding was born in the small town of Dawson, Georgia. When he was five, his family moved to Macon, Georgia, where Redding sang in a church choir and as a teenager won the talent show at the Douglass Theatre for fifteen weeks in a row. His earliest influence was Little Richard (Richard Penniman), also a Macon resident. Redding said, "If it hadn't been for Little Richard, I would not be here. I entered the music business because of Richard – he is my inspiration. I used to sing like Little Richard, his Rock 'n' Roll stuff, you know. Richard has soul, too. My present music has a lot of him in it."
The sleeve notes accompanying the 1966 Atlantic album Otis Blue – Otis Redding Sings Soul, written by Bob Rolontz, describe Redding's early career: "Like all success stories, it was a long path for Otis Redding before he first hit on records. He entered and won a number of local amateur contests in his home town of Macon. Redding became the vocalist with Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers, a group that had started to establish itself in Southern colleges and universities. An early record that Otis Redding made with the group, 'Love Twist' (which was released on Atlantic) created some regional action. A long time after that while Redding was still a member of the group, he recorded his own song 'These Arms of Mine', at the end of a Pinetoppers session. It became a solid hit, and Redding was on his way."
In 1960, Redding began touring the South with Johnny Jenkins and The Pinetoppers. In addition to singing, Redding also served as Jenkins' driver (the bandleader did not possess a driver's license). That same year he made his first recordings, "Fat Gal" and "Shout Bamalama", with this group under the name "Otis Redding and The Pinetoppers", issued on the Confederate and Orbit record labels before being picked up by the King subsidiary Bethlehem.
In 1962, Redding made his first real mark in the music business during a Johnny Jenkins session when, during studio time left over, he recorded "These Arms of Mine", a ballad that he had written. The song became a minor hit on Volt Records, a subsidiary of the renowned Southern soul label Stax, based in Memphis, Tennessee. His manager was a fellow Maconite, Phil Walden (who later co-founded Capricorn Records). Walden’s younger brother Alan Walden also managed Redding for a brief period while Phil was overseas due to a military draft. Otis Redding continued to release for Stax/Volt, and built his fan base by extensively touring a live show with support from fellow Stax artists Sam & Dave. Further hits between 1964 and 1966 included "Mr. Pitiful", "I Can't Turn You Loose" (a speeded-up instrumental version was to become The Blues Brothers entrance theme music), "Try a Little Tenderness" (a remake of the 1930s standard by Harry Woods, Jimmy Campbell, and Reg Connelly, later featured in John Hughes' film Pretty in Pink), "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones), and "Respect" (later a smash hit for Aretha Franklin).
Redding wrote many of his own songs, which was unusual for the time, often with Steve Cropper (of the Stax house band Booker T. & the M.G.'s, who usually served as Otis's backing band in the studio). Soul singer Jerry Butler co-wrote another hit, "I've Been Loving You Too Long". One of Redding's few songs with a significant mainstream following was "Tramp", (1967) a duet with Carla Thomas.
In 1967, Redding performed at the large and influential Monterey Pop Festival. His extraordinary musical gifts were then exposed to a wider audience and may have contributed to his subsequent success as a popular music-recording artist.
On December 9, 1967, Redding and his backup band, The Bar-Kays, made an appearance in Cleveland, Ohio on the local "Upbeat" television show. That night they performed at Leo's Casino, a small venue club in Cleveland] The next afternoon, Redding, his manager, the pilot, and four members of The Bar-Kays were killed when his Beechcraft 18 airplane crashed into Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin, on December 10, 1967. The two remaining Bar-Kays were Ben Cauley and James Alexander. Cauley was the only person aboard Redding's plane to survive the crash. Alexander was on another plane, since there were eight members in Redding's party and the plane could only hold seven, and it was Alexander's turn in the rotation to take a commercial flight. Ben Cauley reported that he had been asleep until seconds before impact, and recalled that upon waking he saw bandmate Phalon Jones look out a window and say, "Oh, no!" Cauley said the last thing he remembered before the crash was unbuckling his seatbelt. He then found himself in the frigid waters of the lake, grasping a seat cushion to keep afloat.
Redding's body was recovered the next day when the lakebed was searched. He was entombed on his private ranch in Round Oak, Georgia, 23 miles north of Macon] The cause of the crash was never precisely determined. Redding was survived by his wife Zelma, mother and father, his daughter Karla and his sons Dexter and Otis III.
According to Nashid Munyan, curator of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Redding considered the song unfinished, having whistled the tune of one verse for which he intended to compose lyrics later, while Rob Bowman's book Soulsville USA claims that Steve Cropper had written a rap for him to speak over the song as it faded out, but Otis simply forgot the words. The song was released (with the place-holding whistling intact) in January 1968 and became Redding's only number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, and the first posthumous number one single in U.S. chart history.
Shortly after Redding's death, Atlantic Records, distributor of the Stax/Volt releases, was purchased by Warner Bros. Stax was required to renegotiate its distribution deal, and found that Atlantic actually owned the entire Stax/Volt back catalog. Stax was unable to regain the rights to its recordings, and severed its relationship with Atlantic. Atlantic also retained the rights to all unreleased Otis Redding masters.
Redding had recorded a massive amount of material in late 1967 just before his death (it was from these sessions that "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" emerged). Atlantic had enough material for three new Redding studio albums – The Immortal Otis Redding (1968), Love Man (1969), and Tell the Truth (1970) – which were all issued on Atlantic's Atco Records. A number of successful singles emerged from these LPs, among them "Amen" (1968), "Hard to Handle" (1968), "I've Got Dreams to Remember" (1968), "Love Man" (1969), and "Look at That Girl" (1969). Singles were also lifted from two live Atlantic-issued Redding albums, In Person at the Whisky a Go Go, recorded in 1966 and issued 1968 on Atco, and Monterey International Pop Festival, a Reprise Records release featuring some of the live Monterey Pop Festival performances of The Jimi Hendrix Experience on side one and all of Redding's on side two. On May 18, 2010, Stax Records released a three-disc recording of three complete sets that he played at the club Whisky a Go Go in April 1966.
In 1993 the U.S. Post Office issued an Otis Redding 29 cents commemorative postage stamp. Redding was inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994, and in 1999 he posthumously received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed three Redding recordings ("Shake", "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay", and "Try a Little Tenderness") among its list of "The 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll."
American music magazine Rolling Stone ranked Redding at number twenty-one on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and in 2008 named him the eighth greatest singer of all time.
In 2002, the city of Macon honored its native son, unveiling a memorial statue of Redding in the city's Gateway Park. The park is next to the Otis Redding Memorial Bridge, which crosses the Ocmulgee River. The Rhythm and Blues Foundation named Redding as the recipient of its 2006 Legacy Award.
In September 2007, the first official DVD anthology of Redding's live performances was released by Concord Music Group, the current owners of the Stax catalog. The DVD, entitled Dreams To Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding, featured 16 classic full-length performances and forty minutes of new interviews documenting Redding's life and career. It premiered at the Douglass Theatre.
In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Redding's passing, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame presented the first major exhibition of music, photographs, film and artifacts documenting the singer's life and musical legacy (September 14, 2007 – September 10, 2008). The exhibition was named "Museum Exhibition of the Year" by the Georgia Association of Museums and Galleries in January 2008.
Beginning with their 1993–1994 performances of the song "Hey Nineteen", the band Steely Dan replaced the phrase "Hey Nineteen/That's Aretha Franklin/She don't remember/Queen of Soul" with "Hey Nineteen/That's Otis Redding/She don't remember/King of Soul." While singing the song in the Two Against Nature tour of 2000, Donald Fagen often left the name attribution blank for the singing-along audiences to fill in, and when most of them sang "Aretha Franklin," he corrected them by saying, "No, that's Otis Redding."
A likeness of Redding appears as an evil version of himself in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, adapted from Stephen King's short story You Know They Got a Hell of a Band. Redding is portrayed as a police officer in the town of Rock N Roll Heaven, which is populated by late rock and roll legends.
Redding's music was featured in the 1991 film The Commitments, including "Mr Pitiful", "Try a Little Tenderness", "Hard to Handle", and "I've Got Dreams to Remember".