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Robert Fontenot

The Otis Redding Plane Crash: 40 Years Later

By December 3, 2007

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The city of Madison, Wisconsin has a claim to fame it would probably rather not mention often: it was here, in the waters of Lake Monona, that soul legend Otis Redding lost his life in a plane crash on December 10, 1967, along with the pilot, Redding's manager, and all but two members of Redding's backing band, the Bar-Kays. Today, the one survivor from the flight itself, Bar-Kays trumpet player Ben Cauley, returned to the site for the first time since he was a shaken, scared 20-year-old being pulled from the freezing waters.

In addition to Cauley, there is planned an coustic version of Redding's last hit, "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay," a memorabilia presentation to his widow, Zelma, speeches from the mayor and Governor, and an official declaration marking December 10th as "Otis Redding Day" in Wisconsin. A new documentary, Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding, will also be screened for the first time. "I knew one day I would back," Cauley told one reporter. "There were a number of times that I thought about it, but didn't have the strength. I'm coming this time." The early start is part of a movement among local Otis fans to make sure that the 40th anniversary of the tragedy is given proper tribute: in the past, city officials have kept the site of the crash closed to the public.

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