Otis Redding is widely regarded as one of the most talented artists of all time, and his short career has left a lasting legacy. Despite dying at the tender age of just 26, Redding’s gravely voice is one of the most recognizable and enduring in all of soul music. Taking inspiration from the world of gospel and soul music, Redding took the world by storm and went on to become one of the most critically acclaimed artists in pop music history.
There are some artists whose work transcends them, and even though they leave us too soon, we will never forget what they have given the world. As a tribute to this icon of popular music, we thought it right to look back over the life and career of a musical legend. So, we’re going to document the life of Otis Redding, as something to think about the next time you’re Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay (see what we did there?!).
Born and raised in Georgia, Redding came to music at a young age, particularly gravitating toward gospel music. He began singing in his local church choir and took the time to learn piano and guitar. After taking singing lessons to improve his voice, he sang in the school band in high school. Redding’s first taste of success came when he was paid $6 every Sunday to perform gospel songs on the local radio station.
In 1958, Redding met guitarist Johnny Jenkins, and the two men formed a formidable musical partnership. This began with Redding winning DJ Hamp Swain’s teenage talent contest and led to Jenkins inviting Redding to become the vocalist for his band. They toured the country, playing gigs during a time of racial segregation, and Redding began to emerge as a growing talent. After accompanying Jenkins to a session at Atlantic Records, Redding was allowed to perform two songs. One of them, These Arms of Mine, led Atlantic rep Joe Galkin to sign him on the spot – the song became his debut single. These Arms of Mine became a huge hit, launching Otis Redding’s career.
Otis Redding became a big star, and was a prolific musician, recording six studio albums between 1964 and 1967. In this time, he recorded and released two of his best-known songs Respect, and Try A Little Tenderness. The former would famously go on to be covered by Aretha Franklin, while the latter became perhaps his most recognizable song. In 1967 Redding was inspired by rock ‘n roll, in particular, The Beatles’ release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and was inspired to write (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay.
Unfortunately, Redding would never see the release of the song, as he died later that year in a plane crash. He and his band were traveling to a performance in Cleveland on Redding’s private plane – all was fine until the following night when they had to fly to Wisconsin. With treacherous weather conditions, the plane eventually crashed into Lake Monona, with all but one of the passengers dying, including Redding.
Otis Redding was just 26-years-old when he died, and was one of the rising stars of the music world. In spite of his untimely death, he cemented a legacy after the posthumous release of a further five records. Redding is still widely regarded as one of the best singers in the history of popular music, and we’re sure you’ll listen to his songs with a newfound appreciation.