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Music / Otis Redding

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I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay,
Watchin' the tide roll away, ooh,
I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay,
Wastin' time.
"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"

Otis Ray Redding Jr. (September 9, 1941 – December 10, 1967) was an American Soul singer famous for his distinctive voice and energetic live performances.

Born in Georgia, he was influenced by Gospel Music as well as the output of fellow Georgia native Little Richard, whose raw, emotional vocals he greatly admired. When he came to Stax Records he recorded with the backing of house bands Booker T. and the MG's and the Mar-Kays, often recording songs he had written himself. Redding's songwriting and performing, which combined soul with rock and roll codified southern soul, and he is often credited as the Trope Maker for the Deep Soul subgenre.

Redding, who at age 26 seemed like he was poised to make a breakout as a major music star, died suddenly toward the end of 1967 while on a concert tour, when a private plane flight from Cleveland, Ohio to Madison, Wisconsin had an equipment malfunction as it tried to make a landing in cold, foggy conditions, then plummeted into the freezing waters of Lake Monona. The crash killed Redding, his pilot, and four of the six members of The Bar-Kays, the Stax band that Redding had recently enlisted as a backing band.note  5,000 people attended his funeral, including practically every big name in southern Soul (even James Brown). His song "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" went on to be a major posthumous hit, and came to be seen as his Signature Song. His music influenced dozens of other artists and earned him the well-deserved title of King of Soul.

Associated Tropes:

  • Art Shift: "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" is quite different to much of his other work, as Redding wanted to evoke a different emotional style. If that's what you know him for, it can be jarring to hear his other work, which tends more strongly to Rock and Soul and high energy performances than to contemplative pieces (for instance, "Hard to Handle", which was recorded around the same time as "Dock").
  • Bittersweet Ending: Not only did he die a matter of months after his triumphant Monterey Pop Festival performance and Aretha Franklin taking "Respect" to #1, he also died one day before the anniversary of the death of his idol Sam Cooke.
  • Briefer Than They Think: Although he released a lot of material, the main part of his recording career lasted only three years. His posthumous albums account for much of the discrepancy.
  • Celebrities Hang Out in Heaven: "Rock and Roll Heaven" by the Righteous Brothers imagines Redding with several deceased other musicians — including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jim Croce, and Bobby Darin — in Heaven together forming a hell of a band, band, band!
  • Christmas Songs: He recorded memorable versions of "White Christmas" and "Merry Christmas, Baby".
  • Cover Version: Redding did quite a few covers across several genres — gospel, traditional pop, straight-up blues, Country Music, early funk, and The British Invasion rock — with his most famous probably being the 1930s standard "Try a Little Tenderness", Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction". His own songs have been subject to a great many covers over the years as well.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: Odd live-only variant; live versions of "Try a Little Tenderness" often featured Redding and the band jumping back into the song after an apparent conclusion.
  • Generation Xerox: The Reddings, featuring his sons Dexter and Otis III, had a few R&B hits in The '80s, including a Cover Version of "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay".
  • Halloween Songs: "Trick or Treat" naturally references the holiday, although the song itself is really more about the narrator asking his girl not to toy with him.
  • Jingle: An appropriately dramatic (or not) take on "Things Go Better With Coke"
  • Leg Focus: From his set at the Monterey Pop Festival:
    Redding: This one goes out to all the miniskirts... I dig.
  • Let's Duet: An entire duet album with Carla Thomas, King and Queen.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: It went both ways with "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)" (Exactly What It Says on the Tin, but it often sounded quite merry when performed live) and its psuedo-sequel "Happy Song (Dum-Dum)", which was much more melancholic.
    • One of his most exuberant songs opens with the line "Call me Mr. Pitiful".
  • Rockumentary: 2007's Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding.
  • Seduction Lyric: "Hard to Handle" is an upfront seduction in which the singer mostly seems to be offering experience and technical competence.
  • Silly Love Songs: As titles like "Pain In My Heart" and "My Lover's Prayer" make pretty clear, Redding was no stranger to love songs.
  • Song Style Shift: "Try a Little Tenderness" is one of the most famous and well-executed examples. It starts off as a mournful ballad, slowly picks up the tempo in its verses, then explodes into an upbeat, celebratory song for the final chorus.
  • Source Music: Featured on the TV show Lost
  • Spelling Song: "Respect", not on the original studio take, but he eventually added Aretha Franklin's use of this on her cover in his own live versions.
  • Team Dad: Steve Cropper, who worked for Stax Records as a record producer, session guitarist, and A&R director, says that Redding was the Team Dad for every musician involved with Stax Records in spite of his youth, and when he died the company was never quite the same.
  • The Something Song: "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)" and "The Happy Song (Dum-Dum)"
  • Title Confusion: The cover of his 1966 album has several blocks of text that make it very perplexing to figure out what the title is supposed to be. Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul, The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul, Dictionary of Soul or even My-My-My (or Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul: My-My-My) all seem like reasonable guesses, and the back cover adds another one—The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul Complete & Unbelievable (no colon). For what it's worth, the label of the original Volt release renders it as The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul, and music histories tend to just call it Dictionary of Soul.
  • Verbal Tic: "Lord, have mercy!"
    • And more famously: gotta, gotta.
  • Very Special Episode: "Stay In School", which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.