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Full Biography of
Otis Redding

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Otis Ray Redding, Jr. was born September 9, 1941, and died December 10, 1967, one month before his biggest hit, "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay," was released. Redding's name is synonymous with the term soul. Often called the "King of Soul," he is renowned for his ability to convey strong emotions through his gritty lyrics, hoarse vocals and brassy arrangements.

Redding was born in Dawson, Georgia. When he was 5, his family moved to Macon, Georgia. Redding sang in the choir at church, and as a teenager won the talent show at the Douglass Theatre in Macon for 15 weeks in a row. His early influences were Little Richard (aka: Richard Pennyman) and Sam Cooke. 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."

CAREER: In 1959, Redding became a vocalist with Johnny Jenkins & the Pinetoppers, a group that had started to establish itself in Southern colleges and universities. An early record that Redding made with the group, "Love Twist," created some regional attention and in 1960, Redding began touring the South with the group. In addition to singing, Redding also served as Jenkins' driver since the bandleader did not have a driver's license. That same year he made the recordings, "Fat Gal" and "Shout Bamalama" under the name "Otis Redding & the Pinetoppers."

In 1962, Redding made his first real mark in the music business. During a Johnny Jenkins recording session, with studio time left over at the end of the day, Redding recorded "These Arms of Mine," a ballad that he had written. The song became a minor hit for Volt Records, a subsidiary of the renowned Southern soul label Stax, based in Memphis, Tennessee. Unusual for the time, Redding wrote many of his own songs, often with Steve Cropper of the Stax house band, Booker T. & the M.G.'s, who served as Redding's back-up band in the studio. Redding continued to release for Stax/Volt, and built his fan base by touring extensively with a live show that included fellow Stax artists, Sam & Dave.

In 1965, Redding and soul singer Jerry Butler, co-wrote another hit for Redding, "I've Been Loving You Too Long." Further hits between 1965 and 1966 included, "Mr. Pitiful," "I Can't Turn You Loose," "Try a Little Tenderness," a remake of the 1930s standard by Harry Woods, Jimmy Campbell and Reg Connelly and "(I Can't Get No) satisfaction," written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, and "Respect," later a smash hit for Aretha Franklin.

In 1967, Redding performed at the large and influential [Monterey Pop Festival.] Redding's extraordinary musical gifts were then exposed to a wider audience and may have contributed to his subsequent success as a popular music recording artist. One of his biggest hits, with a mainstream following was, "Tramp," a duet with fellow Stax star, Carla Thomas, recorded the same year.

Sadly, Redding, perished in a plane crash on December 10, 1967. The day before, Redding and his backup band, The Bar-Kays, made an appearance in Cleveland, Ohio, on the [Upbeat] television show. The next afternoon, Redding, his manager, the pilot, and four members of the Bar-Kays were killed when the Beechcraft 18 airplane they were aboard crashed into Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin. The two remaining Bar-Kays were Ben Cauley and James Alexander. Alexander was on another plane, since there were eight members in Redding's party and the plane could hold only seven. It was Alexander's turn in the rotation to take a commercial flight. Cauley was the only person aboard Redding's plane to survive the crash. He reported that he had been asleep until just seconds before impact, and he recalled that upon waking he saw band mate 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 north of Macon. The cause of the crash was never precisely determined. What Redding might have achieved, or what directions he might have explored, are among the countless "what if" questions in rock & roll history.

POSTHUMOUS RELEASES: "(Sittin' On) 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 recording unfinished, having whistled the tune of last 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 #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, and the first posthumous hit single in U.S. chart history. "(Sittin' On) 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.

Redding had recorded a massive amount of material in 1967 before his death and Atlantic Records 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 label. 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 Whiskey a Go Go] (Atco 1966), and [Monterey International Pop Festival] (Reprise 1967), featuring some of the live performances of The Jimi Hendrix Experience on side one, and all of Redding's performances on side two.

  • LEGACY & AWARDS:
  • In 1993, The U.S. Post Office issued an Otis Redding, 29 cents commemorative postage stamp.
  • In 1994, Redding was inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
  • In 1999 he received, posthumously, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award; the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed three of Redding's recordings "Shake," "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay," and "Try a Little Tenderness" among its list of The 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll; and [Rolling Stone] magazine ranked Redding #21 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
  • In 2002, the city of Macon, Georgia, 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.* In 2006, The Rhythm and Blues Foundation named Redding as the recipient of its [Legacy Award] for that year.* In September 2007, the first official DVD anthology of Redding's live performances was released by the Concord Music Group, the current owners of the Stax catalog. The DVD, entitled [Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding,] features 16 classic, full-length performances and 40 minutes of interviews documenting Redding's life and career.* In 2008, [Rolling Stone] magazine named Redding the eighth greatest singer of all time.
  • REFERENCES IN POPULAR CULTURE:
  • The Blues Brothers Band used Redding's song, "Can't Turn You Loose" as their entrance and exit theme for their concerts and in their movie.
  • Barry Gibb has stated in numerous interviews that he wrote the song, "To Love Somebody" for Otis Redding, but Redding died before he was able to record it.
  • The Doors, fans of Redding, added this verse to their song, "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." In concert, singer Jim Morrison, Doors' lead singer, often added the line, "Got to find the dock of the bay."
  • In 1967, Arthur Conley mentioned Redding in his song, "Sweet Soul Music," with the line, "Spotlight on Otis Redding now singing fa fa fa fa..."
  • Released in 1974, The Righteous Brothers released their song, "Rock and Roll Heaven," which features the verse, "Otis brought us all to the dock of the bay," as tribute to Redding and his song "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay."
  • In 1968, Arthur Conley released a song, "Otis Sleep On."
  • In 1970, Mae West sang, "Hard to Handle," in the film [Myra Breckinridge.]
  • In 1978, Redding's sons, Dexter and Otis III, together with cousin Mark Locket, founded the funk/disco band, The Redding’s.
  • In 1984, Steve Perry, of the band Journey, made mention of Otis Redding in his 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."* In 1985, in the film, [Heaven Help Us,] Andrew McCarthy (Michael Dunn) and Mary Stuart Masterson (Danni) slow dance to the song, "I've Been Loving You Too Long."
  • The 1986 film, [Pretty in Pink,] featured Duckie (Jon Cryer) dancing and singing along to "Try a Little Tenderness." That same year, the film, [Top Gun,] featured Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and Charlotte Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) listening to "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay." One of Mitchell's lines in the movie, states that while he was still a youth, after his father died in combat, his grieving mother would call for him, and request him to keep playing the same records over again. "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay" was on one of those records. Also in 1986, 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,] and in the Science Fiction Novel, [Replay,] by Ken Grimwood, the main character Jeff Winston, when he hears "(Sittin' On) The Dock of The Bay" during one of his "replay" lives, reflects on the untimely death of Otis Redding.
  • In 1987, in the film, [Dirty Dancing,] Jennifer Grey (Baby), walks in on a group of resort employees dancing to Redding's "Love Man," and she is forever transformed. The song "These Arms of Mine," was also on the movie's soundtrack. That same year, De La Soul, for their song, "Eye Know," sampled a portion of the last verse of "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" where Redding whistles.
  • In 1988, in the 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 wooly"), causing Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), to angrily correct him. * In 1990, Redding's song, "Hard to Handle," was covered by The Black Crowes on their debut album, [Shake Your Money Maker.]* In 1991, Redding's songs, "Mr. Pitiful," "Try a Little Tenderness" and "Hard to Handle" were featured in the film, [The Commitments.]
  • In 1993, in the film, [Grumpy Old Men,] Jack Lemmon (John) after making love to Ann-Margret (Ariel), dances around his house to "Love Man." The same year, "These Arms of Mine," was prominently featured the TV series, [Lost] (episode #19, season 2), and as a backup for a dance routine on season four of the U.S. version of [So You Think You Can Dance.] Also, "My Lover's Prayer" was featured in a season #2 episode of the TV series [The Sopranos.]
  • Beginning with the 1993–1994 performances of their song, "Hey Nineteen," the group, 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/He don't remember/King of Soul." While singing the song in the [Two Against Nature Tour] of 2000, Donald Fagen, front man for Steely Dan, often left the name blank for the sing-along audiences to fill in, and when most of them sang "Aretha Franklin," he corrected them by saying, "No, that's Otis Redding."
  • In 1997, on their album, [Midwestern Songs of the Americas,] the Minneapolis punk quartet, Dillinger Four, paid tribute to Redding in the song, "Doublewhiskeycokenoice," with the lyric, "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 says, "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."
  • In the 2000 movie, [Duets,] Paul Giamatti (Todd Woods) and Andre Braugher (Reggie Kane) sing a karaoke duet of, "Try A Little Tenderness. That same year, Everclear's 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."
  • In 2001, 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, again, references to the song, "Try a Little Tenderness."
  • In 2002, the rock band, Phish, routinely plays a song written by 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 2003, Sara Evans’ album, [Restless,] also contains a song entitled "Otis Redding." In the same year, ska/soul band, The Adjusters, released an album entitled, [Otis Redding Will Save America,] and in the popular sitcom, [Rita Rocks,] Richard Ruccolo (Jay Clemens), admits his love for Otis Redding. For this, Jay's wife, Rita, does a cover of "Try a Little Tenderness." Also in 2003, Redding's version of "White Christmas," was featured in the film [Love Actually.]
  • In 2004, Otis was mentioned in the song, "'Merican" by American Punk band, the 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..."
  • In 2005, a sample from "It's Too Late" appeared on the track "Gone," from Kanye West.
  • 2005 to present, in the television series, [How I Met Your Mother] Josh Radnor (Ted Mosby) frequently mention(s)(ed) Otis Redding as being one of his favorite artists.
  • In 2006, a likeness of Redding appears in [Nightmares & Dreamscapes,] a made-for-TV miniseries, adapted from horror-writer, Stephen King's short story, [You Know They Got a Hell of a Band,] which is a reference to the song of the same title by the Righteous Brothers (1974). In the show, Redding is portrayed as a police officer in the town of Rock 'n' Roll Heaven, which is populated by various, late, rock & roll legends. In the same year, the song, "For Your Precious Love," plays during the opening scene of the French film, [Tell No One.]
  • In 2007, Redding was referenced in the song, "Been There Before," by the band, Hanson. The lyrics, "Well, the young man sittin' on the dock of the bay/He took a long-term trip on a first class plane/Now the whole world listens to that one man's song," reference, again, to Redding's recording of "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay," and his fateful plane crash. That same year, Wong Kar Wai's first feature length English-language film, [My Blueberry Nights,] featured Redding's, "Try a Little Tenderness," several times. Also in 2007, Guy Sebastian covered three of Redding's songs, "I've Been Loving You Too Long," "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" and "Hard to Handle," on [The Memphis Album,] and in the Holiday movie, [This Christmas], Chris Brown's character, Baby, sings "Try a Little Tenderness."
  • In 2008, on John Mayer's album, [Where the Light Is,] the intro to his song, "Gravity," is from Redding's song, "Dreams to Remember." That same year, rock & roll/punk band, The Gaslight Anthem, paid tribute to Redding (amongst others) in the song "Once Upon a Time."

All Otis Redding Lyrics / Discography

Full Biography of
Otis Redding

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