Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Otis Redding

Otis Redding

 Opening Remarks
 The timing of life. It is a very curious thing. We all know the song "sittin on The Dock  Of The Bay". Most of us don't know that song was recorded 3 days before the death of Otis Redding. This is a common theme among many artists. Janis Joplin recorded Me And Bobby McGee just days before she died. Jim Croce finished his album "I Got A Name" just a week before his death.
In many ways,  we could view these recordings as a last jewel to come out of a talented person and cement their legacy just before their young lives were taken away tragically and extremely suddenly. All of these artists did so much more than their last piece of work, but it would have been a shame if they didn't get to complete their signature songs. Makes you wonder what more they might have done if they had lived full lives.

 The Facts Of Life

Otis Ray Redding, Jr. was born  September 9, 1941 in Dawson Georgia

When he was three years old, he and his family moved to nearby Macon. At an early age he sang in a church choir and was taught to play on guitar and piano

 Later in high school, he sang in a school band after having taken drum and singing lessons since the age of 10.  He had a love for singing and later on he cited Little Richard and Sam Cooke as major early influences.

"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."
– Otis Redding

At the age of 19 Redding met Zelma Atwood. She gave birth to Dexter and married Redding in August 1961.

Redding purchased a Beechcraft H18 to fly to gigs. Pilot Richard Fraser contacted a mechanic to check the plane for possible issues. The aircraft had room for most of his back-up band.
After having a last call with his wife and children, Redding was on his way to Madison, Wisconsin. The weather was poor, with heavy rain and fog, and he had been warned to postpone the flight. Four miles from their destination at Truax Field, pilot Richard Fraser radioed in to get permission to land. Shortly thereafter, the plane crashed into Lake Monona.


Redding is considered one of the major figures in soul/R&B; his open-throated singing was an influence on other soul singers of the 1960s, while – usually with his writing partner Steve Cropper – he crafted a lean and powerful style of rhythm and blues that formed the basis of the Stax Sound.

He was hired as the lead singer for The Upsetters. At the age of 15 he abandoned school to help his family financially and eventually hired by Little Richard's house band The Upsetters to compete on a talent show.

Together with guitarist Johnny Jenkins he formed the band "Pinetoppers". They toured the Southern United States, with Redding serving as the driver. An unscheduled gig led to a turning point in his career. He signed a contract with record label Stax Records and released his debut album Pain in My Heart in 1964. This album produced his first single, "These Arms of Mine".

Although he was more popular among blacks early in his career, he later became equally popular among whites. Initially, he only performed small gigs in the South, but that changed when he and his band performed at the  The Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles , their first concert in the Western United States. Internationally, Redding scheduled concerts in Paris and London among other venues. He received the honorific nickname "King of Soul"

As a member of Pat Teacake's Band, Redding and guitarist Johnny Jenkins toured in the Southern United States, especially the Chitlin' circuit. This was a string of performance venues that were safe for African-American musicians to perform at during the age of racial segregation which still lasted in the early 1960s. Jenkins later left Pat Teacake's Band to form the "Pinetoppers", which featured Redding.

  He signed with Confederate and recorded one his first songs, "Shout Bamalama". Wayne Cochran, the only solo artist signed to Confederate, became the bass guitarist for the Pinetoppers

Following "Shout Bamalama", Redding wrote the song, "These Arms of Mine", the first single[ a ballad which sold more than 800,000 copies worldwide

Redding drove for Jenkins, as the Jenkins did not possess a driver's license, and helped out wherever he could. Jenkins performed with the band Booker T. & the M.G.'s. When the set ended early, Redding had the opportunity to perform his songs. The first one was "Hey Hey Baby", followed by "These Arms of Mine", which featured Jenkins on guitar and Steve Cropper on piano.

His debut album Pain in My Heart was released on January 1, 1964 by Stax on their Volt label. The album peaked at number 20 on the Billboard R&B chart and at number 85 on the Billboard Hot 100. As the majority of the songs released after "Security" were more adagio, several DJs labelled Otis Redding as "Mr. Pitiful", and subsequently Cropper decided to write a song with Redding called "Mr. Pitiful"

In 1965 Redding co-wrote the soul song "I've Been Loving You Too Long" together with friend Jerry Butler, lead singer of The Impressions, in a hotel near the Atlanta airport.

 In the summer of 1965 Redding and the studio crew arranged new songs for Redding's next album. Two of the eleven songs, "Ole Man Trouble" and "Respect", had been already finished before. "Respect" and "I've Been Loving You" were later recut in a stereo sound during the Otis Blue-session, with the remarkable change that on the first song the line "hey hey hey" was sung by Earl Sims and not by Redding, while the latter song was completely rewritten. The album, entitled Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul, was finally released on September 1965, one of the first albums released by the sister label Volt.

Redding's success was enough that he was able to buy a 300-acre  ranch in Georgia, calling it the "Big O Ranch" Stax was also doing well; Walden signed more and more musicians, including Percy Sledge, Johnnie Taylor, Clarence Carter and Eddie Floyd, 

In late 1966 Redding returned to the Stax studio to record new songs. One of them was "Try a Little Tenderness", written by Jimmy Campbell, Reg Connelly and Harry M. Woods in the 1930s. Today this is often considered to be Redding's signature song.

Jim Stewart commented: 

"If there's one song, one performance that really sort of sums up Otis and what he's about, it's 'Try a Little Tenderness'. That one performance is so special and so unique that it expresses who he is... If you want to wrap it up, just listen to [it]". 

Redding released another studio album, King & Queen, this time with Carla Thomas. He returned to Europe to perform at the Olympia Theatre in Paris. A live album entitled Otis Redding: Live in Europe was released three months later and featured recordings of this and other live performances in cities like London and Stockholm. These two concerts raised Redding's status as musician, but also caused some animosity towards him and his crew, which led to the dismissal of Steve Cropper from his position as A&R. and

Redding and his back-up crew performed at the famous Monterey Pop Festival. This was the first widely promoted and heavily attended rock festival, which attracted an estimated 55,000 attendees with up to 90,000 people at the event's peak at midnight on Sunday. The festival, was founded by John Phillips from The Mamas & the Papas and promoter Lou Adler.

Redding performed on the second day alongside Booker T. & the M.G.s, but arranged the song list 10 minutes before his performance. Thus the M.G.s performed first. At the end of their song "Green Onions" Tom Smothers took the stage to introduce the last act. Redding and his backing band The Bar-Kays went onto the stage and began with Cooke's "Shake" and then "Respect". The ballad "I've Been Loving You" followed. The two last songs were "Satisfaction", originally by The Rolling Stones, and "Try a Little Tenderness". The ending of the latter performed incorrectly, but Redding returned and completed the song with an additional chorus. With a last "I got to go, y'all, I don't wanna go", Redding left the stage. This would be his last major concert.

After his performance at Monterey, Redding wanted to record with his close friend Arthur Conley, but Stax was against the idea. The two moved from Memphis to Macon to continue writing songs. The result was the chart-topping "Sweet Soul Music", a song based on Sam Cooke's "Yeah Man". It peaked at number two on Billboard Hot 100.

Redding developed polyps on his larynx, which he tried to treat with tea and lemon or honey. He eventually entered hospital in September to undergo surgery. In the winter of 1967 he was again brought to Stax to record new songs. One of these was "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay", written by Cropper and Redding, which was recorded only three days prior to Redding's death. Redding considered the song unfinished, having whistled the tune of one verse for which he intended to compose lyrics later; Steve Cropper wrote a rap for him to speak over the song as it faded out, but Redding simply forgot the words. 

 As mentioned earlier, a plane crash in Madison, Wisconsin took the like of Redding and most of his band. Ben Cauley, one of the Bar-Kays and the accident's only survivor, was sleeping shortly before the accident. He woke just before impact, and saw his bandmate Phalon Jones look out of a window and exclaim "Oh, no!" Cauley said the last thing he remembered before the crash was unbuckling his seat belt. He then found himself in the frigid water, grasping a seat cushion to keep afloat. The only other members of the Bar-Kays to survive were James Alexander and Carl Sims, who had to take a commercial flight because the H18 could not carry everyone in the band.

Redding had recorded extensively in late 1967 just before his death, and it was from these sessions "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" emerged. Atlantic had enough material for three new 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:

 "Hard to Handle"

  "I've Got Dreams to Remember"

"Love Man"

"Look at That Girl" 

In the book Rock and Roll: An Introduction, authors Michael Campbell and James Brody suggested that "Redding's singing calls to mind a fervent black preacher. Especially in up-tempo numbers, his singing is more than impassioned speech but less than singing with precise pitch."  His delivery overflows with emotion" in his song "I Can't Turn You Loose".

Janis Joplin's singing was influenced by her presence at several Redding performances. Dave Getz from the band Big Brother and the Holding Company noted that "her high-energy trip started right at that moment" while watching Redding. At the Fillmore, Sam Andrew asserted that Joplin "absorbed Redding's every syllable, movement, and chord change" and learned to start singing rhythmically and "to push a song instead of just sliding over it."

Redding is also known for his musical habits, such as the use of "interjections ('gotta, gotta, gotta') and his condensing of multi-syllabic words into their percussive components ('satisfaction' into 'fa-tion')" or "GOT-ta, GOT-ta" and "my-my-my".

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