Soul singer Otis Redding was born on September 9,1941. His grainy voice and galvanizing stage shows made him one of the greatest male soul singers of the '60s. At the time of his death, Otis Redding was making his first significant impact on the pop audience after years as a favorite among blacks.
In his youth, Redding was influenced by both Little Richard and Sam Cooke, and early in his career he was a member of Little Richard's backing band, the Upsetters. In the late '50s, he met Johnny Jenkins, a local guitarist, who invited him to join his group, the Pinetoppers, who were managed by Phil Walden. Feeling that he'd gone as far as he could go in Macon, Redding moved to L.A. in 1960. There he cut a handful of singles, including the Little Richard-esque "Gamma Lamma."
Upon returning to Macon in 1961, he recorded "Shout Bamalama" and garnered some local attention.After taking odd jobs around the South, Redding worked as a chauffeur and was working again with Jenkins when the guitarist landed a contract with Atlantic. One day in October 1962, when it seemed that Jenkins' session wasn't going anywhere, Redding hastily recorded his own ballad, "These Arms of Mine." He had accompanied Jenkins to the session with the intent of getting a chance to record. By 1963, "These Arms of Mine" had become Redding's first hit. It hit Number 20 on the R&B chart and established Redding as a recording artist. But it was his impassioned performances on the so-called chitlin' circuit that made him, next to James Brown, the most popular black entertainer of the mid-'60s.
Redding wrote many of his own hits, including "Mr. Pitiful" (Number 41 pop, Number 10 R&B, 1965), "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)" (Number 29 pop, Number 12 R&B, 1966), and "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay" (Number One pop, Number One R&B, 1968), all co-credited to Stax session guitarist Steve Cropper; "I've Been Loving You Too Long" (Number 21 pop, Number Two R&B, 1965), with Jerry Butler; "Respect" (Number 35 pop, Number Four R&B, 1965), "I Can't Turn You Loose" (Number 11 R&B, 1965), and "My Lover's Prayer" (Number 61 pop, Number 10 R&B, 1966).
He also had hits with the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" (Number 31 pop, Number Four R&B, 1966) and Sam Cooke's "Shake" (Number 47 pop, Number 16 R&B, 1967). Among his LPs, Dictionary of Soul is considered one of the best examples of the Memphis soul sound.Redding also played an important role in the careers of other singers. In 1967 he cut a duet album with Carla Thomas, King and Queen, which had a hit in "Tramp" (Number 26 pop, Number Two R&B). Redding produced his protégé Arthur Conley's tribute "Sweet Soul Music" (Number Two pop and R&B) in 1967 — an adaptation of Sam Cooke's "Yeah Man" — which became a soul standard. Redding also established his own label, Jotis, and was planning to get more deeply involved in talent management, development, and production.Redding's appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 introduced the singer to white rock fans.
His intense performance (captured in the film Monterey Pop and on the LP Otis Redding/Jimi Hendrix) was enthusiastically received. As a gesture of thanks, Redding and Steve Cropper wrote "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay." It was recorded on December 6, 1967, at the end of a long session. The whistling at the end came about, Cropper claims, because Redding forgot a vocal fadeout he had rehearsed before. It would become his biggest hit, yet Redding never lived to see its release.
On December 10, 1967, his chartered plane crashed into a Wisconsin lake, killing Redding and four members of his backup band, the Bar-Kays. In early 1968 "The Dock of the Bay" hit Number One on both the pop and R&B charts. Fourteen years later his two sons and a nephew formed their own group, called the Reddings, and covered "The Dock of the Bay" (Number 55 pop, Number 21 R&B).
Otis Redding was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 by Little Richard.
Click to listen to him singing "Sitting at the Dock of The Bay"
Reference: The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001)