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Guide Profile: Otis Redding


Otis Redding

Otis Redding


September 9, 1941, Dawson, GA; died December 10th, 1967 (Madison, WI)


Soul, Southern Soul, Deep Soul



Contributions to music:

  • Quite possibly the greatest soul singer of all time
  • Incredibly influential in both his vocal prowess and energetic live performances
  • Provided a raw southern counterpoint to soul's poppier tendencies
  • A solid songwriter as well as a keen interpretive stylist
  • Brought the grittiest soul music directly into the pop mainstream

Early years:

Like many soulmen, Otis started singing in church -- specifically, the Vineville Baptist Church of Macon, GA, where the family had moved when he was five (and where Otis' father was a minister). The Redding family existed in a constant state of near-poverty, however, due in part to their patriarch's ill health, and so Otis dropped out of high school and took musical jobs, singing at Macon's Grand Duke Club and eventually touring with a band called Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers.


Otis' vocals -- reflecting his equal love of Sam Cooke and Little Richard -- stood out, but when the Pinetoppers were invited to travel to Memphis' Stax studios in October, 1962, it was to record Jenkins on one of his own compositions. When that proved uneventful, Otis was allowed to cut one of his own compositions, the ballad "These Arms Of Mine," with the rest of the studio time. Eventually released on Stax's Volt subsidiary, it became a huge R&B (and minor pop) hit. Otis was on his way.


Although a big pop hit continued to elude him, five years of hit R&B singles landed Otis a gig at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. His legendary performance there put him on the very brink of pop stardom, and he went home and wrote "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" specifically as his big breakout hit. Sadly, that #1 smash would only come after his tour airplane crashed into Lake Monon near Madison, WI, on December 10, 1967, killing him and four members of his backing group, the Bar-Kays.

Other facts:

  • After winning a local talent show fifteen times, was barred from competing
  • Early on, worked with Little Richard's band, The Upsetters
  • Would often vocally indicate horn arrangements; "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)" left his instruction in
  • Owned his own record label, publishing company, and 300-acre ranch in Round Oak, GA
  • Wrote "Dock of the Bay" after living on a houseboat in Sausalito, CA, for a week, listening to the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper" album
  • Was slated to have his own national TV special in 1968


  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1989)
  • Grammy Hall of Fame (1998)

Songs, Albums, and Charts:

#1 hits:
  • "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" (1968)
  • "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" (1968)
Top 10 hits:
  • "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)" (1965)
  • "Mr. Pitiful" (1965)
  • "Respect" (1965)
  • "My Lover's Prayer" (1966)
  • "Satisfaction" (1966)
  • "Knock On Wood" with Carla Thomas (1967)
  • "Tramp" with Carla Thomas (1967)
  • "Try A Little Tenderness" (1967)
  • "I've Got Dreams To Remember" (1968)
  • "The Happy Song (Dum-Dum)" (1968)
  • "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" (1969)
Other important recordings: "These Arms Of Mine," "Chained And Bound," "Come To Me," "Pain In My Heart," "I'm Depending On You," "Security," "That's How Strong My Love Is," "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)," "I'm Sick Y'all," "I Can't Turn You Loose," "Just One More Day," "Cigarettes And Coffee," "Glory Of Love," "I Love You More Than Words Can Say," "Shake," "Amen," "Hard To Handle," "Lovey Dovey" with Carla Thomas, "White Christmas," "Merry Christmas, Baby," "Love Man," "Pounds And Hundreds"
Wrote or co-wrote: "Sweet Soul Music," Arthur Conley
Covered by: Aretha Franklin, Michael Bolton, The Black Crowes, The New York Dolls, Sammy Hagar, Toots and The Maytals, Pearl Jam, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, Etta James, Al Jarreau, Three Dog Night, The Proclaimers, The Plimsouls, The Ventures, Stevie Wonder, Percy Sledge, Tony Joe White, Billy Preston, Bryan Ferry, Kelly Clarkson, Dave Edmunds, Joan Osborne, Taj Mahal, Was (Not Was), Humble Pie, Reba McEntire
Appears in the movies: "Monterey Pop" (1968), "Popcorn" (1969)
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