"Every artist in the city asked to open for Otis. The first night it was the Grateful Dead. Each night Janis Joplin asked me ahead of time, 'Bill, PLEASE, PLEASE, can I come out early before anyone else to make sure I see him?'. She idolized Otis. To this day, no musician ever got EVERYBODY out to see him the way he did. I expected something special, but not this. By FAR Otis Redding was the single most extraordinary talent I had ever seen. There was no comparison! Then or now. He was a black Adonis. He moved like a serpent. A panther stalking its prey. Beautiful and shining, black, sweaty, sensuous and passionate!"
- Bill Graham, famed impresario of the Fillmore West.
Rock's pre-eminent shaper of the southern soul style in the 1960's was ironically not its originator, nor its biggest hitmaker, or its longest lasting performer, and during his lifetime was probably not even its most well-known star. But for all intent and purposes the dominant style of rock music to emerge out of the south that decade - soul - was led in spirit by Otis Redding.
Few artists of any era were as highly regarded by their peers as Redding, whose reputation among other artists is exceeded only by a select few in rock history, even as his mainstream familiarity is curiously limited to one immortal song to many casual listeners. It may not be a stretch to say that among the true immortals in rock 'n' roll Otis Redding is the one artist who elicits nothing but praise from everyone who came in contact with him personally, or simply through his music.
Otis Redding Jr. was born in 1941 in Dawson, Georgia and grew up in Macon, a town already brimming with rock 'n' roll stars from Little Richard to James Brown to Chuck Willis. From early childhood music was the central component of Redding's life as he incessantly played whatever instrument he could lay his hands on, from drums to piano to guitar, and he always was singing. By his teens Redding was playing drums behind various gospel groups on radio broadcasts, and soon after began winning hotly contested local amateur contests at the Douglass Theater, often by performing the songs of one of his three primary idols at the time Little Richard ("Heebie Jeebies"), Clyde McPhatter ("Money Honey") or Elvis Presley ("One Night"). It was during this time that he made two key connections that would propel him to a recording career and on to stardom. Phil Walden was a white teenager in love with black rock 'n' roll and listened intently to those amateur contests held in the Douglass Theater. Though he managed a rival group on those bills he was not allowed in to watch the weekly competitions due to the strict segregation laws of the south and so he could only listen over the radio as week after week his charges lost to this Redding kid. In time the two were introduced and Walden became Otis's manager, friend and confidant as the two of them set out to conquer the music world together.
The other figure who would prominently play a role in Redding's future success was lefthanded guitarist Johnny Jenkins, already a local legend with his flamboyant style and acrobatic on-stage theatrics which were hugely influential to Jimi Hendrix, who himself was working the chitlin circuit at the time as well. Jenkins hired Redding to sing with his group and also act as a valet and when Jenkins secured a session with Stax Records in Memphis in 1962 following a local hit on a small label, Redding got his own chance for stardom.
Though not slated to sing at the session and only there ostensibly as a driver, the day did not go well for Jenkins when they couldn't get what they considered a promising cut on him, despite some excellent guitar work. With everyone tired and ready to quit, local record distributor Joe Galkin, who'd been eying Redding's talent for awhile and had arranged for the session, convinced those at Stax to let Otis sing. His first effort, a Little Richard sound-alike song he'd written, didn't impress anyone much, but he then launched into an original ballad entitled "These Arms of Mine" which made everybody stop in their tracks. His quavering vocals, the intense longing in his delivery and the languorous pace that made it seem, contrary to the circumstances in which it was recorded, that he in fact had all the time in the world, made it unlike anything in rock at the time. The record was released on Stax's subsidiary label Volt and was plugged incessantly by powerful WLAC DJ John R. and slowly sales grew until it had cracked the R&B Top 20 and Pop 100. Despite its success a follow-up session didn't take place until months later when Redding churned out a reworked version of an Irma Thomas song "Ruler Of My Heart" as "Pain In My Heart" and scored his second hit. Following that success Redding was allowed to cut his first album and embarked on the package tours that were the industry standard at the time and he began to craft his simple, but powerful, on-stage persona.
Throughout 1964 he built a loyal, though still fairly small, following and refined his technique which was then largely centered around 6/8 styled ballads that showed off the vocal quality which his wife referred to as "begging". As he grew as an artist his distinctive vocal style featured so many pauses and hesitations in his deliveries which acted like words, it made it nearly impossible for others to successfully cover him without seeming like parodies. He added a trademark stuttering refrain, "gotta gotta", to many of his songs to increase the dramatic thrust of the work, and though not nearly as gospel-rooted as many of his soul contemporaries, few were better at ad-libbing over the closing vamp, sometimes extending the song considerably and further adding to the unlikelihood that any artist could replicate his performances.
His mainstream breakthrough came in early 1965 with a song he co-wrote with guitarist Steve Cropper called "Mr. Pitiful". Though the subject was inspired by the ballad oriented reputation he'd gotten and the nickname that he'd earned from dee-jays as result of those slow yearning records, the song itself was an uptempo blast of soul, and the while it just missed the Pop Top 40 it gave him his first R&B Top Ten smash. Later in the year he and Chicago soul star Jerry Butler co-wrote Redding's defining original ballad, "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)", which became Otis's biggest seller during his lifetime, a #2 R&B hit and #21 Pop showing. Then that July, over a 24 hour period, he recorded Otis Blue, one of the most acclaimed LP's of the 60's, featuring one of his most immortal compositions, "Respect", and a blistering cover of the Rolling Stones "Satisfaction", a song which he had never even heard before cutting. Its release led to widespread rumors that he had in fact written it himself and sold it to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, something Richards considered a compliment and to this day he insists that Redding's version is the way he himself had envisioned it and that Otis's rendition is by far the best version of the classic song. The album also broke him in England, with a cover of the Temptations "My Girl" being pulled from it as an unlikely single which nearly cracked the Top Ten on the British Charts and became his first overseas hit.
Though Redding's popularity had been confined largely to the south to this point his reputation was now spreading across all of rock 'n' roll. Jefferson Airplane's first single, "It's No Secret", was written with Redding in mind to record. A wildly successful stint at the famed Whisky-A-Go-Go club in Los Angeles soon followed with rock royalty showing up every night to watch him perform. It was during these shows that Bob Dylan asked to meet him backstage and offered him a song he'd just written called "Just Like A Woman". Redding turned it down ("too many damn words") and Dylan wound up singing it himself in his best Otis imitation. Phil Spector professed his love of Redding's music during a meeting at the producer's house following the Whisky gig in which Spector sat at the piano and played along with him virtually every song Otis had ever cut, astonishing the singer who was unaware how widespread his reputation had become.
By 1966 Redding was a certified international star. He captured that year's prestigious Melody Maker poll as Best Male Rock Vocalist, the first time in ten years that anyone other than Elvis Presley had won. He was riding high on the charts as well, as ten straight releases had hit the R&B Top Twenty including an audacious remake of the pop standard "Try A Little Tenderness", which Redding forever made his own with his definitive interpretation, one that Three Dog Night later covered note for note. As Otis's star grew brighter his work brought added acclaim to the Stax operation, which now became the go-to studio for much of the music world. Atlantic Records, who distributed Stax product nationally, sent their newest signees Sam & Dave there and the two went on to become the hottest duo in rock 'n' roll in a matter of months working with in-house songwriters Isaac Hayes and David Porter and utilizing the same studio band, in Booker T. & The MG's and The Memphis Horns, that backed Redding. Seeing Otis's success Wilson Pickett also asked to record there and promptly broke through with his biggest hits as well, with "In The Midnight Hour" and "634-5789 (Soulsville USA)". The "Stax Sound" was becoming universally known and much of it was thanks to Redding, who not only was their biggest star, but also the creator of their unique horn style, the writer of a large share of its biggest hits and most importantly the ebullient spirit that carried the label and its staff through the tedious and pressurized business of churning out material at a non-stop pace.
In March of 1967 Redding headlined the first overseas Stax-Volt tour where its dynamic shows became instantly legendary. In the midst of recording Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band the Beatles came to see Redding at a local club and then stood in line to meet him, just as any other fans would, even though they themselves were the biggest stars in the world at the time, each one patiently waiting their turn to speak with him, clearly in awe of his skill and charm. Upon his return home he was offered a headlining spot on the first rock music festival in Monterey, California. That June, with Aretha Franklin's cover of his "Respect" currently topping the pop charts, Redding closed the Saturday night set at the Monterey Pop Festival to an overwhelming reception, with the consensus among other artists on the bill that he was far and away the highlight act of the entire weekend, stunning the white hippy audience that he dubbed "The Love Crowd", who may have come into the weekend unfamiliar with him, but left it as his most vociferous fans, a revelation that was unsurprising for anyone who'd previously witnessed his magnetic stage presence.
Redding was prolific in other ways as well. He and manager Phil Walden had started their own publishing company Redwal Music, giving them control over his own music at a time when that was still a rarity in rock, and he had also begun his own label, Jotis, to record other artists as well. His protégé Arthur Conley was enjoying a #2 Pop Hit with "Sweet Soul Music", a song Otis co-wrote and produced. He'd also written hits for Mickey Murray ("Shout Bamalama"), Irma Thomas ("Good To Me"), Buddy Miles ("Wholesale Love") and Etta James ("Security") with whom he was planning on working with, co-writing and producing an entire album for in the upcoming year. He had plans on recording his own heroes from his formative years, including Clyde McPhatter, Little Richard and Fats Domino in an updated style and on his own horizons as an artist there was also talk of a duet album with Aretha Franklin that had music fans drooling in anticipation.
While a previous duet album he'd made with fellow Stax star, Carla Thomas, was riding high on the charts, Redding underwent surgery for throat polyps in the summer of '67, which curtailed his recording and performing career for months. While he recovered he listened intently to the new sounds coming out of the "Summer Of Love" and set out to match their lyrical insight with new songs of his own. When finally allowed to sing again that fall Redding holed up in the studio and cut new material at a frenzied pace. The final track he recorded in early December before going out on tour was a song that only he seemed to believe in. "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" was a reflection of his time in Monterey the previous summer and was a gentle folk-soul song unlike any of his previous work. The reception to it in the studio was mixed, sounding alien to their ears compared to his previous yearning ballads or barrelhouse uptempo songs, but Otis was certain that it would be his first Pop #1 hit.
He never got the chance to find out, for three days later Redding was dead. The private plane he owned crashed into a lake in snowy Wisconsin on the way to a concert killing him and most of the members of the Bar-Kays, the young instrumental group he'd been mentoring and who themselves had scored a major hit that year with "Soul Finger". It was three years to the day after his idol Sam Cooke had been killed. Redding was just 26 years old.
"(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" was released posthumously and shot up the charts, fulfilling Redding's prediction when it became his only #1 Pop song as an artist and validated his belief in his new direction. The subsequent album was his highest charting ever and cemented his reputation as an all-time immortal. In the following years more unreleased material he'd been working on came out, giving him an unprecedented TEN posthumous hit singles and a half dozen hit albums to go with them, by far the most success that any rock artist had achieved following their death to that point. Tribute songs emerged from The Doors ("Running Blue"), Wilson Pickett ("Cole, Cooke & Redding"), a distraught Arthur Conley ("Otis Sleep On") and his own labelmate William Bell ("Tribute To A King"). Years later Peter Gabriel biggest solo hit "Sledgehammer" was done in honor of, and in the style of, his primary idol, Otis, of whom he has said he dedicated his life to after seeing in concert in 1966.
In 1989 Redding was elected to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame in his first year on the ballot and was inducted by his first musical hero, Little Richard. Though his records themselves, outside of "Dock of The Bay", are not nearly as widely heard today on the stagnant radio playlists compared to many of his soul contemporaries, from Wilson Pickett to Aretha Franklin and Sam & Dave, his catalog itself remains eminently familiar to any legitimate rock fan. His music has worked its way into the consciousness of even those who never intentionally sought him out, as the horn riff from "I Can't Turn You Loose" provided The Blues Brothers with their entrance theme in their hit movie, while "Respect" of course became an international anthem thanks to Franklin's reading of it. Years later "Hard To Handle" was made a hit by the Black Crowes and the wildly popular film The Commitments from that same time was a virtual homage to Redding's music. In 1993 Redding was one of a handful of rock artists chosen to be depicted on a US postage stamp. Over the years his songs have been covered by everyone from Toots & The Maytals to Sammy Hagar to The White Stripes, while Otis's own children and nephew scored numerous hits in the 80's as "The Reddings". His tunes have been sampled from everyone from De La Soul to EPMD and the Wu-Tang Clan, and in 2011 two of the biggest stars in the rock universe, Kanye West and Jay-Z, collaborated on a song in his honor entitled simply "Otis", featuring a sample from his "Try A Little Tenderness", keeping his name and his music alive for an audience that came of age more than forty years after his death. Since Redding received featured billing for the song it ensured his return to the Billboard charts and in the process marked the longest span between entries of any artist in history, roughly 42 years.
To each new generation that comes of age by listening to music from the past, Otis Redding's recorded legacy sits as the pinnacle of one of rock's most enduring styles and eras. His career lasted just five years but his legend is seemingly endless.
Otis at the Fillmore,
San Francisco, 1966
On stage at Monterey
Pain In My Heart
It wasn't until he'd notched two big hits that Stax Records had the confidence that Redding could carry a full length record and even when they did give the go-ahead it was plagued by the same issues that so many record LP's prior to the mid-60's were, namely a lack of original material. Instead, it featured covers of recently big songs from other artists (Stand By Me, Louie Louie), along with a few of Redding's favorites from his idols (Lucille, You Send Me), plus his own already released hit singles (These Arms Of Mine and the title track) as well as their B-sides (Hey Hey Baby, Something Is Worrying Me). While Security would be subsequently taken from this album in the spring for another hit original. That doesn't mean it's not worthwhile, but as a whole it is more a product of the era than it is a product of an artist in control of his own career. *NOTE* The original cover art featuring a then-current shot of Redding on stage in black and white with a process hairdo was replaced in the CD era with a color photo from his 1967 Monterey Pop performance, further deceiving the public by giving them the image of Redding that's more recognizable. Either way, it's the same album.
The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads
An LP in which the title is not the least bit self-aggrandizing, 1965's offering found Redding reeling off a string of heart wrenching ballads that brought him his early fame. Ironically the one definitive uptempo song included, "Mr. Pitiful", a nickname given to him by a local DJ for his style on slower songs, was written to address his reputation as an unparalleled ballad singer but in the process it became a turning point in his career as it showed the world that he was every bit as good, if not better, on fast numbers. This is the album in which Redding truly comes into his own.
The pinnacle album of Redding's career and the definitive southern soul studio LP of the 60's by any artist. Recorded during a 24 hour stretch - interrupted for a few hours at night so the MG's could play their regular money-making club gig in town - the album featured the usual mix of Otis originals, among them his biggest hit during his lifetime, "I've Been Loving You Too Long" and the original version of his soon-to-be-anthem "Respect" - and choice covers of Sam Cooke, Motown as well as other Stax stars. But it was the audacious cover of The Rolling Stones "Satisfaction", which had only just been released and which Otis himself had never even heard prior to cutting it, that turned the most heads by claiming it as his own with a storming rendition that led to rumors that Redding had in fact written it himself and sold it to the Stones. Decades later Otis Blue remains one of the handful of immortal rock albums of the era. *Note* Now available in a two-disc Collector's Edition featuring both stereo and mono versions of the album and non-album B-sides, live cuts of the songs and remixed takes.
The Soul Album
A lack of hit singles - Just One More Day was the only song to chart - doesn't reflect the quality of Redding's first album from 1966, another mix of stellar originals (Good To Me, Any Ole Way and the classic 3AM despondency lament Cigarettes & Coffee) and covers. It can't compare to the two albums that preceded it, or the one which followed, all of which are five star classics, but in the pantheon of 60's soul LP's it still stands tall.
The Otis Redding Dictionary Of Soul - Complete & Unbelievable
In the running for the greatest album title of all-time, the LP itself is also among the best of its time, featuring his definitive reading of the standard "Try A Little Tenderness" which forever made it seem like his own. At times it feels like a greatest hits album, with his final classic 6/8 styled ballad, "My Lover's Prayer" and the anything but sad stomper "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)", both big hits, sitting alongside treasured and typically idiosyncratic Otis originals "Hawg For You", "Ton Of Joy", "I've Been Sick Y'All" and "Sweet Lorene", one of the most under appreciated songs in his canon, later covered memorably by Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Band. His frantic rendition of the Beatles "Day Tripper" showed the world that the Fab Four could indeed write funky if the songs were placed in the right hands. A masterpiece and the last solo studio LP released in his lifetime.
King & Queen
Stax Records paired Redding with their first solo star, Carla Thomas, for a duets album that seemed on the surface to be a stretch - she sang pretty and he sang rough - but the chemistry on record was undeniable and their styles meshed perfectly, most notably on the huge hit "Tramp", a recent hit for bluesman Lowell Folsom the song is transformed into a funk workout by the duo. An explosive take on the recent Eddie Floyd hit "Knock On Wood", which Floyd claimed he originally wrote for his labelmate Otis to begin with, was also a major hit. Aside from the legendary Marvin Gaye-Tammi Terrell duets, no two solo artists of the 60's combined forces on a project with such creative and commercial success.
Live In Europe
In March of 1967 Stax Records essentially shut down its operations for more than a month to send its stars and resident house band, Booker T. & The MG's, to Europe for a string of sold out shows across the continent. The tour resulted in three multi-artist Live Albums (one from London, another Paris and a third culled from various venues) while both Sam & Dave and Otis Redding scored hit singles with live versions of songs taken from the trip. But Otis outdid them all with a full-length album of his own that showcased the most dynamic singer in the world at the time, taking everything at breakneck speed and electrifying the European crowds night after night. It was his highest charted album during his lifetime and coincided with his full-fledged breakthrough that came as a result of his growing reputation on stage.
The Dock Of The Bay
Following Redding's death in December 1967, Stax and their distributor Atlantic Records were faced with a dilemma of what to release on the heels of Otis's posthumous #1 hit, "Dock Of the Bay". He had enough first-rate material left in the can for perhaps his best album ever, but to put it out all at once when the "Dock Of The Bay" single was hot meant that the other potential hit singles would be already well-heard before they were available on 45 RPM records, something that was not standard practice at the time. So Atlantic honcho Jerry Wexler left it to his teenage daughter, Anita, who had befriended Otis in the last year of his life and was his biggest fan (once asking him incredulously, "How can you STAND being Otis Redding?!?!") to compile songs that best represented his appeal. The title track ensured it would sell in massive quantities, and Anita's sterling choices of previously released album cuts and B-sides ("Ole Man Trouble", "I Can't Turn You Loose" among them) along with some of the less commercially viable unreleased sides he'd recently cut, made this an unusual release, but one that hit The Top Five anyway. Definitely not the place to start, but as a snapshot of an artist gone too soon it works.
The Immortal Otis Redding
Here's where the best of the unreleased sides began to come to light, with one of his most inspired and gut wrenching ballads, "I've Got Dreams To Remember", the irresistibly funky "Hard To Handle" and the joyous "Happy Song (Dum-Dum)" anchoring the proceedings. All were posthumous hits and among the definitive songs in his catalog, showing he was only just hitting his stride as his life ended.
In Person At The Whisky A-Go-Go
In the spring of 1966 Redding performed a weeklong stint at Los Angeles famed Whisky A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip and knocked the L.A. rock scene for a loop, as its most famous stars packed the club nightly and bowed at Redding's feet. Yet Atlantic and Stax shelved the release of the tapes during his lifetime because of an unfortunately out of tune horn player from his road band. Upon his death, needing another album, preferably one filled with recognizable songs, they reached back and took this off the shelf and any technical flaws were quickly made irrelevant by Otis's enthusiasm and the otherwise tight quality of the proceedings. Kicking off with a blistering five minute take on "I Can't Turn You Loose" the show never relents and provides the listener with a rare glimpse into Redding's typical show of the time. The results prove that Otis was the star all along and could carry any band to undreamed of heights himself.
More unreleased studio performances and the quality still does not dip, as Redding had been especially prolific in the fall of 1967 when these were recorded following a two month layoff after surgery to remove throat polyps that summer. Curiously Stax and Atlantic chose two cover songs among the three singles taken from the album, a good rendition of Jackie Wilson's recent "Higher & Higher", and a take on one of Otis's first idol's biggest hits, Clyde McPhatter's "A Lover's Question". But it's the title cut, another Redding original, that shows him at his stomping best and gave him his last Top 100 hit on his own. Elsewhere though gems remain, a cover of a little known song by garage rockers The McCoy's, "Look At The Girl", and another original composition, "Direct Me", which would've made for a better single, both among his most infectious recordings ever.
Tell The Truth
The last of the unreleased sides, but not scraping the bottom of the barrel by any means, as the title cut is another stellar single, but by 1970, his memory was fading among rock fans eager for the latest trends, not three year old recordings by someone sadly they'd never get to see in person. Interestingly, one of the final sides included here is a cover of Little Richard's "Slippin' & Slidin", a song by one of his biggest idols that Redding had performed frequently as an amateur a decade earlier and marks a sadly ironic coda to his own career.
Good To Me: Otis Redding Recorded Live At The Whisky-A-Go-Go, Volume 2
Outtakes from the 1966 Whisky-A-Go-Go dates that were finally released in 1982, albeit with cheap looking artwork that made it seem like a throwaway, but updated and expanded a decade later for the CD era. Many Redding connoisseurs feel these performances are superior to the originally released Whisky show, but it doesn't have quite the flow to the proceedings that album had.
A final batch of outtakes, alternate cuts and other assorted rarities from throughout his career make for interesting listening, but not essential.
Live In London & Paris
Two disc set of the complete shows used to compile his Live In Europe album. Hearing him unedited with the songs in their original context and running order is a revelation, with the middle section of the London show being almost incendiary in its power.
Live On The Sunset Strip
Like the preceding album did for his European shows, these are the unedited tapes of his full sets from The Whisky-A-Go-Go run from 1966, allowing the listener to hear him unabridged.
The Otis Redding Story
Released in 1987 this is without question the best put together collection of Redding's career. The song choices are without flaw, the liner notes are a treasure trove of information and provide the most complete biography of Otis's life and music. Long off the market, and the sound mastering has been significantly upgraded in later years, so consumers should look elsewhere to get their Redding fix, but for a long time this was the benchmark for a career retrospective that all deceased artists deserved to have and it provided him with a well-deserved boost in reputation twenty years after his death.
OTIS!: The Definitive Otis Redding
A four disc boxed set that offers a huge booklet with notes, essays and pictures, virtually every important song he recorded along with a fourth disc gathering all live versions and sequenced and edited as if it were one continuous concert. In terms of sheer volume of material this has them all beat, but curiously it fell short in terms of presentation. The essays are not up to the standard set by the Otis Redding Story collection, the song selection leans too heavily on posthumous sides at the expense of early material (though it should be noted his pre-Stax recordings made for other labels are here and are definitely worth hearing), and the live disc is not satisfying enough, as it takes the songs out of the context of their original shows where Otis could build to climaxes over the course of the night. Still, this is the most Redding in one place, which is good, but it could've been done even better.
The Very Best Of Otis Redding
The most popular one-stop shopping for his greatest hits, 16 of them sequenced chronologically for the most part, without a vital song missing. Buy this and it will stay in your CD changer for months on end, guaranteed, but you'll still want - and need - much more to satisfy your growing Otis addiction.
The Very Best Of Otis Redding Volume 2
Rarely do second greatest hits work because all of the biggest hits have already been collected on the first edition. That's the case here as well, but this is still packed with gems and provides the same quality presentation of the earlier collection.
Dreams To Remember: The Otis Redding Anthology
Here's the place to go for a single purchase that is more than simply a greatest hits collection, yet is not as expensive or as overwhelming as the boxed set. Two-discs, marred only by the hand-drawn cover, with every required song included, plus as a much welcomed bonus the unedited five song Monterey Pop Festival set to close it out. Get this and be happy.
Apparently Warner Brothers, who put this out, feels that only a dozen songs in Redding's career are in fact essential to own, making this an entry level introduction to an immortal artist and one that, once these songs burn into your psyche, is going to be cast aside quickly for a more thorough collection.
At first glance this would appear to be a bewildering album to seek out. As a career overview it falls short of any greatest hits because, well, they're not his greatest hits. Only four songs here are unquestionably major smashes. At 13 songs it is somewhat skimpy to boot. But its charm lies in the fact that, as with all albums in the Stax Profiles series, the song selections were made by a relevant figure, be it another musician who is a fan of the artist, or in this case the collaborator with Redding on much of his work, MG's guitarist and frequent co-writer Steve Cropper. Choosing songs that personally mean a lot to him this bypasses the overexposed hits and reveals some nuggets that those collections invariably miss. The only problem is, for a Redding neophyte this is NOT where you'd start, as you need the hits for a reason. For someone who is already a fan of Otis they're going to already have, or want, a bigger set or all of his individual albums, so chalk this up as a good idea without much of a market for it.
The Definitive Soul Collection
Hardly definitive, though still not bad and it's probably the easiest collection to find as of now in the ever-shrinking stock of the few remaining record stores in the world. Two-discs, but unforgivably skimpy, with only fifteen tracks each, only two of which are live cuts. Poorer notes and packaging than previous double-disc Otis sets, which makes you question why this was deemed necessary rather than just upgrading the sound on the older collections, or better yet, expanding each original Otis Redding LP with bonus tracks, remastered sound and thorough liner notes.
The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Collection
After years of competing hits compilations, boxed sets and the like, this simple, straightforward collection came along to perhaps usurp them all. Three discs containing every single he released from the moment he entered the Stax studios until the last of his posthumous sides came out at the dawn of the 1970's, both A&B sides in chronological order in their original mono mixes. A perfectly realized concept - the evolution of Otis Redding as it happened. What more could you ask for?
Stax/Volt Revue: Live In Norway, 1967
Taken from the massively successful tour of Europe, this is a full length show featuring all of the stars, from Booker T. & The MG's to Eddie Floyd, Sam & Dave and Arthur Conley, as well as Redding. Rarely are the shows outside of Britain and France referred to, yet they toured the entire continent and this marks the first time this has been available.
Dreams To Remember: The Legacy Of Otis Redding
An hour and a half feature on Redding's career combining full-length live performances, most of which were never previously available commercially, and interviews with artists, family members and others to provide the most in-depth look at Otis's life. Packed with tons of extras, this is vital.
1. (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay
2. I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)
3. Try A Little Tenderness
5. These Arms Of Mine
6. Mr. Pitiful
7. I Can't Turn You Loose
8. Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)
9. I've Got Dreams To Remember
10. Tramp (with Carla Thomas)
11. Hard To Handle
12. Pain In My Heart
14. Change Gonna Come
15. The Happy Song (Dum-Dum)
16. Love Man
18. Just One More Day
19. That's How Strong My Love Is
20. Ole Man Trouble
22. My Lover's Prayer
23. Knock On Wood (with Carla Thomas)
24. You Left The Water Running
25. Look At That Girl
26. Chained And Bound
27. Sweet Lorene
28. Direct Me
29. My Girl
30. Merry Christmas Baby
32. Your One And Only Man
33. That's What My Heart Needs
34. Rock Me Baby
35. Something Is Worrying Me
36. Shout Bamalama
37. I'm Sick Y'All
38. The Match Game
39. Cigarettes And Coffee
40. Mary's Little Lamb
41. Papa's Got A Brand New Bag
42. The Glory Of Love
43. Hawg For You
44. New Year's Resolution (with Carla Thomas)
45. Free Me
46. For Your Precious Love
47. Any Ole Way
48. Tell The Truth
49. Keep Your Arms Around Me
50. You Don't Miss Your Water
1. Otis - Kanye West & Jay-Z (featuring Otis Redding)
2. Eye Know - De La Soul
3. The Symphony - Marly Marl
4. Gone - Kanye West (feat. Consequence & Cam'ron)
5. Tramp - Salt-N-Pepa
1. Respect - Aretha Franklin
2. Hard To Handle - The Black Crowes
3. I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) - Ike & Tina Turner
4. Security - Etta James
5. I Can't Turn You Loose - The Chambers Brothers
Melody Maker Award - Best Male Vocalist, 1966
Grammy Award, Best R&B Song - Dock Of The Bay 1968
Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame - 1989
Songwriters Hall Of Fame - 1994
Grammy Hall Of Fame - (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay - 1998
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award - 1999
Rhythm & Blues Foundation Legacy Award - 2006
Grammy Hall Of Fame - I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) - 2011
Billboard Magazine inaugurated the Otis Redding Excellence Award in 2006 to recognize Outstanding Achievement In Music, Culture and Business.
Joel Whitburn's Honor Roll Of Hits (using a mathematical formula to determine the most honored songs in rock history)
#1. (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay - Otis Redding
#2. Respect - Aretha Franklin (written by Otis Redding)
"Otis Redding's performances constitute, as a whole, the highest level of expression rock 'n' roll has yet attained... Otis Redding IS rock 'n' roll." - Jon Landau, who'd go on to produce The MC5 and Bruce Springsteen.
"I'd never seen anybody take over a stage like that. It was just incredible... He was as big as the whole stage (in) personality and power." - Grace Slick, on Redding's show stealing performance at the Monterey Pop Festival.
"The one act (at Monterey) I was dying to see." - Michelle Phillips (The Mamas & The Papas).
"The highlight was being introduced to Otis Redding. I'll never forget it. I was thrilled just to touch the hem of his garment." - Nick Gravenites, lead singer The Electric Flag, on his experience playing the Monterey Pop Festival.
"You know, the Stones are the best in band in the world, but you couldn't give me a million dollars to follow Otis on stage." - Brian Jones, Rolling Stones guitarist, after seeing Redding at The Monterey Pop Festival.
"The greatest set I've ever seen in my life!" - Jim Marshall, legendary rock photographer, on Redding's show stopping performance at the Monterey Pop Festival.
"Defined by his volcanic stage show and a succession of the hardest, tightest soul singles ever cut, Otis Redding was arguably the most exciting male singer the 60's produced... At the Monterey International Pop Festival, Redding threw a coming-out party of sorts, wowing the 'love crowd' with an earth-shaking performance that managed to make The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Who sound mild by comparison" - Rhino Records
"Out of all the artists I've seen perform throughout my life Otis Redding was the best." - Bill Graham, legendary concert promoter for the Fillmore West.
"He was a giant and I wanted to be just like him" - Toots Hibbert, reggae superstar.
"The greatest performer of the classic deep soul era" - Steve Leggett, allmusic guide.
"A master of both the drawn out heart-wrenching slow ballad and the stomping uptempo house-wrecker. He was also one of the finest writers soul music has ever seen, an idiosyncratic vocalist and, more than anyone else, the creator of the mature Stax/Volt horn line." - Rob Bowman, on the incredible versatility of Redding as an artist.
"Otis is God, man!" - Janis Joplin.
"In the four decades since Otis Redding was killed in a plane crash, his music has diminished neither in quality nor stature" - David Hinckley, New York Daily News.
"Otis Redding - the original, and still the ultimate, King Of Soul" - Barney Hoskins, MOJO Magazine.
"I've since heard it (I've Been Loving You Too Long To Stop Now) recorded by Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Joe Cocker. I recorded it. And I STILL say it was Otis's song. I was just the conduit. I never would've approached it the way he approached it. He sang 'I've been' and then just paused and let you think about it: I've been what?. Okay, 'loving you'. And then he stopped again! Then 'too long'. He made 'long' a ten syllable word! When he sang 'You've grown tired', that was every wail and cry and moan that any man has ever sung. It was a statement. It was a paragraph. It was just beautiful!" - Jerry Butler, on the song he co-wrote with Redding in a Buffalo, NY hotel room on tour.
"The definitive soul ballad... a glorious display of begging and pleading." - Joe Sasfy, Time/Life Music, on Redding's 1965 hit "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)".
"When the grind got to slow, and the slow got to grindin', wasn't NOBODY could tell us how tortured a life we can lead like Otis Redding. What couldn't the man do with a song? One of the most evocative, heart wrenching ballads ever." – Suzan Jenkins, Rhythm & Blues Foundation, on "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)".
"The next time I heard it they had recorded it for Otis's album. That was as close to heaven as I ever thought I'd get." - O.B. McClinton, country singer/songwriter, on having his composition, "Keep Your Arms Around Me", recorded by Otis Redding.
"Redding retooled the song the way an Indy 500 crew tweaks everything under the hood: horns blared the Richards guitar riff, the tempo raced and the lyrics were blown out like so much exhaust. 'Satisfaction' emerged instantly recognizable yet unmistakably altered, and it bounced back out into the streets as a prowling black muscle car" - Kevin Phinney, author, on Redding's "daring" cover of The Rolling Stones "Satisfaction"
"Otis's version (of Satisfaction) - shit, that was the way I was hearing it!" - Keith Richards, on the definitive performance of his signature composition.
"'Try A Little Tenderness' that's my favorite. Of all the things he ever did, from a standpoint of production, everything, the way it's laid out from the bottom to the top, it's the best thing he ever did. It's like the history of Stax is wrapped up in it." - Jim Stewart, Stax Records founder, on the defining song of the label.
"Otis was emotional and physical (in the studio). He'd run down from the vocal mic to where the horns were playing and shake his fist at you, singing those (horn) parts, it was just electrifying. He'd get you foaming at the mouth, he'd just have you so excited. We all loved him. God, we really did." - Wayne Jackson, trumpeter, Mar-Keys, who backed Redding on all of his sessions.
"This damn guy's a genius... I've only been in the studio with two other people that are in this category, Bobby Darin and Ray Charles" - Tom Dowd, legendary Atlantic Records engineer/producer, talking about Otis Redding following sessions for the Otis Blue album, which he engineered.
"He was the most influential person I ever worked with, period." - James Alexander (Bar-Kays).
"Otis always had the hardest head arrangements. He knew where he was going on every song, what beat he wanted lines to fall on. Otis's horn lines were entirely different... they were more difficult rhythmically and harmonically. He always did things in keys nobody was playing in. The sharp keys are brilliant keys, but people don't mess around with them much. It gave his songs a lot of punch and drive, and made you want to pop your fingers. He'd always say, 'Floyd, if you listen to the song and your shoulders don't move there's no groove to it!'." - Floyd Newman, horn player, Stax Records.
"My hero is Otis Redding... he's got the best voice. I try to find my own voice by listening to my favorite singers, of which Otis Redding tops the list" - Antony Hegarty, lead singer, Antony & The Johnsons.
"When Otis came into the picture, life became about more than just sound... His intent was so powerful when we were recording it translated to more than the music. I'd never been with anybody that had that much desire to express emotion & It translates to anyone who hears it" - Booker T. Jones, organist Booker T. & The MG's.
"I loved Otis Redding. He said I was one of the singers that had inspired him, which was as big a compliment as I'd ever received." - Etta James.
"I started singing rhythmically and now I'm learning from Otis Redding how to push a song instead of just sliding over it" - Janis Joplin, on watching and imitating Redding forged her own style.
"The finest record to ever come out of Memphis and certainly the best example of modern soul ever recorded" - Jon Landau, critic, on The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul: Complete & Unbelievable.
"Simply the greatest posse cut of all-time" - Phillip Mlynar, Village Voice, on Marley Marl's groundbreaking use of Otis Redding's "Hard To Handle" sample on "The Symphony".
"He had the greatest sense of rhythm and timing of anybody I've ever worked with. He never ran out of ideas. With all due respect to the great artists that came through those (Stax) doors, Otis Redding was the one that everyone looked forward to coming back to town". - Steve Cropper, MG's guitarist and frequent Redding co-writer.
"Otis Redding tears up the stage with incendiary, rocket-fueled performances, only to catch his breath on an occasional ballad. Can't think of anybody else in 1966 who could match Redding's level of passion and unregulated energy on stage." – Jeff Colburn, Roots & Rhythm.com, on the complete Otis Redding On The Sunset Strip collection.
"He was, without question, the most captivating artist I've ever seen. A true genius." - Jon Scott, Memphis DJ.
"Already Otis had to know he could kill an audience, any audience... Otis was a great, great, great showman. But rough. Otis whipped up on a song. Had a voice that could mug you on the first note." - Ben E. King, reflecting on Redding's first major concert appearance at the Apollo Theater, 1963.
"Otis was a rare and unique, terribly charming person... he had an amazing intelligence, a great street sense about people and a real engaging personality. He could almost consume a person, from racist redneck sheriffs to European royalty, really by being himself" - Phil Walden, Redding's manager.
"A natural prince" - Jerry Wexler, legendary Atlantic Records producer, on the simple magnitude of Redding.
"Otis Redding. My all time favorite gig is still him at the Ram Jam Club, Brixton, 1966. He oozed warmth. It was like the sun coming out" - Peter Gabriel, responding to a question about which artist he wanted to be.
"With the audience on the verge of a religious experience... you can hear a woman in the crowd cry out to Otis for salvation, and you can hear her get it" - Robert Christgau, on Redding's overwhelming effect on stage.
"His gig at the Whisky-A-Go-Go was probably the most exciting thing that rock-worn room has ever harbored. He was a magic singer with an unquenchable store of energy and a great band. Crowds never sat still when he was on stage, nor could they stay quiet when he asked them for a response, because he gave them too much to leave them strangers." - Pete Johnson, critic, Los Angeles Times, on Redding's 1966 week long appearance at the famed Whisky-A-Go-Go club.
"Very few people I've met, one of them being Elvis Presley, when they walked into a room all heads turned. And Otis was that dynamic; he was that kind of guy. When he was onstage he was just bigger than life. I mean, he was like a God" - Steve Cropper.
"Otis Redding's performances are absolutely unbeatable... he's just trying to take it further and further and get the audience into a frenzy" - Cery Matthews, singer for Catatonia and solo.
"'Dock Of The Bay' is as whole, as fully realized and mature as any record ever made." - Dave Marsh, rock critic, on Redding's musical epitaph.
"Of all the lost music stars in those years - Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison - none left a bigger hole than Otis Redding, whose shoes in 40 years have not been filled." - New York Daily News
"There ain't too many people who wore the crown. Elvis Presley wore it, and I guess Frank Sinatra wore it. And Otis comes and boy, he wore it. He wore that halo. He knew it. He was a goddamn star." - Duck Dunn, MG's bass player.
"I have to go, y'all... I don't wanna go." – Otis Redding to the crowd as he left the stage at the Monterey Pop Festival to a thunderous ovation. It would effectively mark his farewell to the music world as well, as he died six months later.
100 Greatest "Live" Music Artists - #5 100 Greatest R&B Artists - #10 100 Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Artists of The '60s - #12 100 Greatest Male R&B/Soul Vocalists - #24 100 Greatest Frontmen of Rock Music - #44 100 Greatest Rock Artists - #45 100 Greatest Male Rock Vocalists - #65 Most Influential Rock 'n' Roll Artists - #87
100 Greatest R&B/Soul Songs - #3. (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay, #84. Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song) 100 Greatest R&B/Soul Ballads - # 3. I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now), #65. Pain In My Heart 100 Greatest Contemporary Christmas Songs - #15. Merry Christmas Baby, #72. White Christmas 100 Greatest Love Songs - #15. I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)
100 Greatest Rock Albums - #56. Otis Blue 100 Greatest Rock Albums Of The 1960s - #24. Otis Blue, #91. The Otis Redding Dictionary Of Soul