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Otis Ray Redding, Jr. (September 9, 1941 December 10, 1967) was an Americanmarker 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 Famemarker (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 that '"Otis Redding is rock & roll". Redding died in a plane crash at the age of 26, one month before his biggest hit, " The Dock of the Bay", was released.


Early life

Redding was born in the small town of Dawson, Georgiamarker. When he was 5, his family moved to Macon, Georgiamarker. Redding sang in the choir at church, and as a teenager won the talent show at the Douglass Theatre for 15 weeks in a row. His earliest influence was Little Richard. Richard Penniman (Little Richard) was 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 thus: 'Like all success stories, it was a long path for Otis Redding before he first hit on records. His musical inspiration was Little Richard, another soul singer of note. He entered and won a number of local amateur contests in his home town of Macon, Georgiamarker (also the home town of Little Richard). 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 since 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 Orbit and Confederate record labels before being picked up by King.

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, Tennesseemarker. His manager was a fellow Maconite, Phil Walden (who later founded Capricorn Records). Redding was also managed for a brief period by Walden's younger brother Alan Walden 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" (which 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), " 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 Festivalmarker. 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. 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 Mononamarker in Madison, Wisconsinmarker, 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. Cauley reported that he had been asleep until just 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 lake bed was searched. He was entombed on his private ranch in Round Oak, Georgia, 23 miles (37 km) north of Macon. The cause of the crash was never precisely determined.

Otis is survived by his wife, mother and father, his sons Dexter and Otis III and his daughter Karla.

Posthumous releases

" The Dock of the Bay" was recorded only three days before Redding's death. 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. 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. " The Dock of the Bay" was a significant stylistic departure from the bulk of his previous work, and might have presaged a change in direction for the singer.

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 their recordings, and severed their 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 Festivalmarker performances of The Jimi Hendrix Experience on side one and all of Redding's on side two.


Statue in Gateway Park
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 Famemarker listed three Redding recordings ("Shake," " The Dock of the Bay," and "Try a Little Tenderness") among its list of "The 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll." Rolling Stone ranked Redding #21 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists 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 40 minutes of new interviews documenting Redding's life and career. It was premiered at the Douglass Theatre.

In 2008 American music magazine Rolling Stone named Otis the eighth greatest singer of all time.

Bob Rolontz wrote the following within his sleeve notes accompanying the 1966 Volt album “Otis Blue - Otis Redding Sings Soul”: ‘Soul is a word that has many meanings. In the pop-R&B world of today it usually means an intensely dramatic performance by a singer, projected with such feeling that it reaches out and visibly moves the listener. It means that the singer is saying something, sometimes more than the lyrics themselves might normally convey. Soul is not something that can be feigned - you either have it or you don’t. Otis Redding has it, to a degree almost unrivalled by any other young singer in sight.’

Rolontz continued: ‘The moving style of Otis Redding is a fusion of blues, pop and gospel. It comes as naturally and normally to him as crying to a baby. His sound is real. It is also personal and individual, and at the same time it is universal. Anyone who listens to Otis Redding understands his message. That, perhaps, is the true meaning of soul.’

Rolontz concluded: ‘It is part of the quality of Otis Redding’s dramatic and highly personalized style that he makes every song he sings completely his own, even when the material has previously been recorded by another outstanding singer. He does it here [on this album] too, and that perhaps is another meaning of soul, or the Otis Redding version of it.’


In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the passing of the legendary Otis Redding, 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). "I've Got Dreams to Remember" features over 175 artifacts including photographs, hand-written lyrics, posters, letters and other personal memorabilia, as well as multi-media kiosks exploring Otis Redding's evolution as a singer, composer, arranger and producer. Organized in association with the Otis Redding Estate, the exhibition was curated by Ellen Fleurov, president of Crossroads Traveling Exhibitions, Atlanta. The exhibition was named "Museum Exhibition of the Year" by the Georgia Association of Museums and Galleries in January 2008.

Among the highlights of "I've Got Dreams to Remember," drawn from the Georgia Music Hall of Fame's permanent collection and the archives of the Redding family, as well as friends and colleagues, are:

  • Obscure, pre-Stax recordings released in 1960 and 1961 on the Transworld, Finer Arts, Alshire, Confederate and Gerald labels;
  • A family scrapbook with candid images of Redding on stage at black clubs and theaters, including the Apollomarker in Harlemmarker and The Royal Peacock in Atlanta, Georgia, ca. 1962–1965;
  • A press release from Walden & Associates that describes "One of the biggest mistakes of Otis' career"- not recording Dylan's Just Like A Woman, which he had written with Redding in mind after seeing him perform at the Whiskey A Go Gomarker in West Hollywoodmarker in April 1966;
  • Hand-written lyrics for Don't Let Me Waste My Time, a never-recorded song;
  • Remarkable concert and behind-the-scenes images from the 1966 and 1967 performances at the Olympia Theatermarker in Parismarker by Jean-Pierre Leloir, one of Europe's most recognized music photographers;
  • Memorabilia, photographs, and notable recordings from Jotis, Redding's own label, by protégés such as Billy Young and Arthur Conley;
  • An ultra-rare poster advertising the December 10, 1967, Otis Redding concert at the Factory in Madison, Wisconsin, the concert he was en route to when his plane crashed into Lake Monona, killing Redding and all but one aboard; and
  • Western Union telegrams to Redding's family from James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Presley and other musical luminaries expressing their heartfelt sorrow over Redding's death.

Multi-media stations feature rare concert performance footage and outtakes from Redding's appearances on local and syndicated teen music programs. Also highlighted are tracks from the singer's seminal studio and live recordings, plus early, lesser-known singles, outtakes, variant recordings, original compositions performed and covered by other musicians and his own cover versions of music by Sam Cooke, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, among others. Excerpts of interviews with Redding himself and individuals and artists such as Zelma Redding, Rodgers Redding, Steve Cropper, Stax co-founder Jim Stewart, Alan Walden, DJs Hamp Swain and Satellite Poppa and others contribute personal stories and insights to the experience.

In popular culture

  • Arthur Conley made mention of Otis Redding in his 1967 song "Sweet Soul Music" with the line "Spotlight on Otis Redding now Singing fa fa fa fa...".
  • 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."
  • Barry Gibb has stated in numerous interviews that the song To Love Somebody was written for Otis Redding, but died before he was able to record it.
  • The Doors, fans of Redding, added this verse before "Runnin' Blue": "Poor Otis dead and gone, left me here to sing his song. Pretty little girl with the red dress on, Poor Otis dead and gone." Singer Jim Morrison had been singing those lines on their tour the year before. Morrison also added in the same song the line "Got to find the dock of the bay", which was the name of Redding's compilation album 'The Dock of the Bay' which was released in 1968.
  • The Grateful Dead frequently covered "Hard To Handle" during their concerts.
  • The Righteous Brothers song "Rock and Roll Heaven" features the verse: "Otis brought us all to the dock of the bay", a tribute to Redding and his song "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay".
  • The Saints (Australian punk band) covered "(I'm) Stranded" in 1976 and "Security" as on their 1978 album Prehistoric Sounds.
  • 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.
  • Steve Perry made mention of Otis Redding in his 1984 song "Captured by the Moment" with the line "Otis replied, a little tenderness we got to try.", a reference to the Redding song "Try a Little Tenderness"
  • The 1986 film Pretty In Pink featured Duckie (Jon Cryer) dancing and singing along to "Try a Little Tenderness". He states his admiration for Otis.
  • The 1986 film Top Gun features Pete Mitchell/Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Charlotte Blackwood/Charlie (Kelly McGillis) listening to "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay". Pete states that while he was still a youth, after his father died in combat, his grieving mother would call for Pete, and requested him to keep playing the same records over again, and "The Dock of the Bay" was on one of those records.
  • The band Okkervil River wrote a song called "Listening to Otis Redding at Home during Christmas" on their album Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See.
  • Redding's sons Dexter and Otis III, together with cousin Mark Locket, founded the funk/disco-band The Reddings in 1978.
  • Otis the pug from The Adventures of Milo and Otis is named after Otis Redding. The naming was apparently inspired by a scene in which the dog is sitting on a dock.
  • The song "Hard to Handle" was covered by The Black Crowes on their 1990 debut album Shake Your Money Maker.
  • Redding's music was heavily featured in the 1991 film The Commitments, including "Mr Pitiful", "Try a Little Tenderness" and "Hard to Handle".
  • In Nick Hornby's novel High Fidelity, protagonist Rob Fleming is thrilled to purchase a copy of the 1976 bootleg 45 single, "You Left the Water Running", from a woman who is pawning her husband's albums at a very low price in retaliation for his infidelity.
  • In 1997, on their album Midwestern Songs of the Americas the Minneapolis punk quartet Dillinger Four paid tribute to Otis Redding in the song "Doublewhiskeycokenoice" with these lyrics: "God save Otis Redding because I know he's never gone". This song also contains a sample from the song "Stay in School", in which Redding speaks: "Hi, this is the big O. I was just standing here thinking about you, thought I'd write a song about you, and dedicate it to you. Take a listen."
  • The 2000 Everclear album, Songs from an American Movie, Vol. 1: Learning How to Smile, features a song titled "Otis Redding", which contains the lyric, "I wish I could sing like Otis Redding, I wish I could play this guitar in tune." On the 2003 Sara Evans album Restless, there is also a song entitled "Otis Redding", referencing how the legend's music making the song's heroine feel good and reminds her of the summer.
  • The rock band Phish routinely plays a song written by a friend from Burlington, Vermont, Richard Wright, called "I Didn't Know" featuring the lyrics "Pardon me, Doug (pardon me, Doug,) Is this a picture of Otis Redding? Yes! Yes! Taken right before he died, Well you can give me his hide."
  • In 2005, a sample from "It's Too Late" appeared on the track "Gone" from Kanye West.
  • In 2007, Redding was referenced in the song "Been There Before" by the band Hanson. The lyrics, "Well the young man sitting/ On the dock of the bay/ He took a longterm trip/ On a first class plane/ Now the whole world listens/ To that one man's song" reference Redding's recording of "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" before his plane crash.
  • In the 1988 movie Bull Durham, the character Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), sings the wrong words to "Try a Little Tenderness" (thinking the line "young girls, they do get weary" is actually "young girls, they do get woolly"), leading Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) to angrily correct him.
  • In the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, Jennifer Grey's character "Baby" walks in on a group of resort employees dancing to "Love Man" and she is forever transformed. The song "These Arms of Mine" was also on the soundtrack.
  • In the 1993 film Grumpy Old Men, Jack Lemmon's character "John", after making love to Ariel (Ann-Margret), dances around his house to "Love Man".
  • "These Arms of Mine" was prominently featured on the "S.O.S." episode (#19, season 2) of the TV series Lost and on season four of the U.S. version of So You Think You Can Dance.
  • "My Lover's Prayer" was featured in "From Where To Eternity", a season two episode of the TV series The Sopranos.
  • The song "For Your Precious Love" plays during the opening scene of the 2006 French film "Tell No One".
  • In the 1985 film, Heaven Help Us, Michael Dunn (Andrew McCarthy) and Danni (Mary Stuart Masterson) slow dance to the song, "I've Been Loving You Too Long" that Danni selects from a jukebox at a boardwalk place.
  • In 2008, rock n roll/punk band The Gaslight Anthem paid tribute to Redding (among others) in the song "Once Upon a Time". He was also listed as an influence for their album "The 59 Sound" in Alternative Press.
  • In 2003, ska/soul band The Adjusters released an album entitled 'Otis Redding Will Save America'
  • In the popular sitcom Rita Rocks, Jay Clemens admits his love for Ottis Redding and his wife Rita does of a cover of his popular hit song "Try a Little Tenderness."
  • Redding's version of "White Christmas" was featured in the 2003 film "Love Actually".
  • The Blues Brothers Band used the song "Can't Turn You Loose" as their entrance/exit theme for their concerts and the movie.
  • Arthur Conley released a song, "Otis Sleep On" in 1968.
  • In the movie Shrek, Eddie Murphy's character "Donkey" tells Shrek he's "got to got to got to try some tenderness!" These words, along with some other lyrics, are a clear reference to Try a Little Tenderness.
  • Wong Kar Wai's first feature length English-language film "My Blueberry Nights" (2007) featured Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness" several times.
  • In 2004, Otis was mentioned in the song "'Merican" by American Punk Band Descendents, which talks about the good and bad things about America. "I come from the land of Ben Franklin / Twain and Poe and Walt Whitman / Otis Redding, Ellington, / The country that I love / But it's a land of the slaves and the ku klux klan / Haymarket riot and the great depression / Joe McCarthy, Vietnam / The sickest joke I know".
  • Mae West sang "Hard to Handle" in the 1970 film Myra Breckinridge
  • In 1994, Pearl Jam performed "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay".
  • In an episode of "House" on Fox, " That's How Strong My Love Is" plays after an argument between Dr. House and his roommate Dr. Wilson.
  • Television show How I Met Your Mother frequently mentions Otis Redding as being the favourite artist of main character Ted Mosby. In an episode Cigarettes and Coffee plays.
  • In John Mayer's Where the Light Is the intro to his song "Gravity" is Otis' song Dreams to Remember.
  • In 2007, Guy Sebastian covered three Redding songs on his The Memphis Album as follows:
  • De La Soul sample the whistling melody from (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay in their song "Eye Know."
  • In the Holiday movie "This Christmas" Chris Brown's character Baby sings Try A Little Tenderness
  • In the Science Fiction Novel Replay by Ken Grimwood, the main character Jeff Winston reflects on the untimely death of Otis Redding, when he hears (Sittin' On) The Dock of The Bay during one of his "replay" lives.
  • In the 2000 movie Duets, Todd Woods (Paul Giamatti) and Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher) sing a karaoke duet of "Try A Little Tenderness."
  • In 1993 Paul Young recorded the song Now I Know What Made Otis Blue



  1. Pat Browne, The guide to United States popular culture, 2001, p. 672
  2. Richard J. Ripani, The New Blue Music: Changes in Rhythm & Blues, 1950–1999, 2006, p. 85.
  3. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees
  6. White, Charles. (2003), p. 229. The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Authorised Biography. Omnibus Press.
  7. Walden, Alan. "Remembering Otis Redding". Retrieved August 27, 2008.
  8. "Eyewitness Tells of Otis Redding's Violent Death", Jet, December 28, 1967
  9. Associated Press. (1967, December 12). " BODY OF SINGER RECOVERED FROM CRASHED PLANE."
  10. Dock Of The Bay by Otis Redding Songfacts
  11. Rolling Stone review for Otis Redding: The Dock of the Bay
  12. Bowman, Rob (1997). Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records. New York: Schirmer Trade. ISBN 0825672848. Pg. 138–142
  13. 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll


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