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Otis, Soul brother number 1 Redding

Updated: Oct 23, 2021

Why do musical geniuses die young? we just finished a story on 2PAC who died at 25 in his prime, today we are featuring another brother who though less controversial died also in his prime at 26. This young man packed so much achievement into his short 26 years on Earth that he became the the gold standard by which Soul music is measured. Generations born after his death, incidentally about 53 years ago cant seem to get enough of this guy. It's unbelievable how much achievement this guy packed into the short years he spent on earth Here is a citation done post humously by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during his induction. " his name is synonymous with the term soul music that arose out of the black Experience in America through the transformation of gospel and rhythm and blues into a form of funky Secular testifying" Redding at the time of death was a mega superstar with his own Ranch, Private plane, about $35,000/ week, for shows and some $Millions in his account. that's a lot of wealth for a boy from a small town in the South. The 6 footer became larger in death than he was in life. Such was the demand for his very soul stirring songs that 3 albums were released after his death. Whenever you hear songs like, " Sitting on the Dock of the Bay", " I 've been loving you too long" , " try a little tenderness", " A change gonna come" and " Knock on wood" You should take a minute to stop and reflect and praise the memory of the genius called Redding.

Dock of the Bay Album Sleeve ( image: Discogs)

Early Life

Redding was born in Dawson Georgia and at the age of two moved to Macon Georgia, He quit school at the age of 15 to support his parents, Redding Junior as he was called then was the 4th of 6 children of Otis Redding Senior and Fanny Roseman. like most African American great Musicians, talent usually starts from Church. His Father was a part time preacher. He sang in the church choir and learned the piano, along the line he also learnt drums. At high school he sang in the school band and was said to be earning $ 6 each Sunday for performing gospel songs for Macon radio station. Redding also earned $5 for 15 consecutive weeks by winning a singing competition. He dropped out of school at 15 to support his parents, when his dad developed tuberculosis and had to do several odd jobs to get by. He worked as a digger, a gasoline attendant and part time musician.

Young Redding ( Image Pinterest)

Music Career

Redding's career actually picked up in 1958 when he won Swain music contest for 15 consecutive weeks. Redding himself said his music was heavily influenced by Little Richard and Sam Cooke. Redding was hired by the Upsetters band when Little Richard in one of his maneuvers left Rock and Roll for Gospel. He was paid about $25/wk but this did not last long and he left his wife and Family in Georgia and moved to Los Angeles California.

Redding's as a member of a group Pat T Cake and the mighty panthers toured the Southern circuit in the late 50's into the early 60's these were a string of clubs Blacks could play in due to Segregation. At some point he met Phil Walden and Bobby Smith the owner of confederate records and he recorded some songs with this label under his band Otis Redding and the Shooters.

Otis Redding and the Shooters Album Sleeve ( image: Discogs)

Redding's break came when he accompanied his friend Jenkins to an audition at Stax studios in Memphis and the audition did not quite go very well, they somehow allowed Redding's to sing. he poured his soul into his songs and came out with a recording contract. Redding was given an opportunity to record an album that had two songs

" These Arms of Mine" and "Hey Hey Baby", the album was released by Volt in October 1962 and by march the following year was Topping the Charts and had sold well over 800, 000 copies.

These Arms of Mine album Sleeve ( image: youtube)

Redding had become known and by 1963 he released an album that was a compilation of all his previous songs and some new ones. The album was not so successful.

Redding once went to perform at the Apollo in New York and the cost of accommodation for his crew was $450 and he was being paid $400 which left him financially stranded he had to be bailed out by Ben E King

Ben E King (image:

Otis real Break came in 1965 when he released an album, Otis Blue: "Otis reading sings soul" He also released in 1965, "A change Gonna come" . By the release of this album Otis had become so successful and rich that he formed two companies in partnership with others named Jotis Records and Redwal Music. Stax label under which Otis recorded also had artist like , Percy sledge, Johnny Taylor and Clarence Carter.

Percy Sledge ( image: New York Times)

Clarence Carter (image: Discogs)

Otis Redding by this time was beginning to break the segregation barrier and was one of the first musicians to perform for Rock Audiences in the Western USA. His performance received critical acclaim and his music permeated mainstream culture. Otis returned to the studio again in 1966 and he recorded a track called " Try a little kindness" which today is said to be his signature tune, the song was written by Jimmy Campbell previously done by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Stax Records artists started touring Europe in 1966, and London was the first port of call, Otis did very successful shows in London and six months later they were touring Europe.

Redding did a musical collaboration with Carla Thomas in 1966

Otis Redding and Carla Thomas ( image: Pinterest)

Otis though fantastic was still not totally accepted by white audiences until he gave his most passionate and emotional performance at the Monterey pop festival. He sang his own song "Respect" did Rolling Stone's " Satisfaction" made an impulsive speech and asked the audience if they were " the Love Crowd" he played the Ballad "I 've been loving you" and also did " try a little tenderness" and that show brought Redding to mainstream America's acceptance.

Redding developed polyps of the larynx and tried to drink tea, honey and ginger to cure it but it did not work and had to resort to surgery this was in September 1967, by early December 1967 he went to the studio and recorded "sitting on Dock of the Bay"

His record label, wife and band did not quite like the song, but the song later happened to be one of his greatest songs to date.

Other tit bits about Otis Redding

Redding was a man of style who was a fashion Icon with well over 200 suits and 400 pairs of shoes, he took his appearance seriously after papa Rufus Thomas gave him a rap for poor appearance. Redding met his wife Zelma when he was 18 and she 15, they together had four children. Redding was a ranch owner, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist and a record Label owner. He was 6' 1" and 200 pounds . Nice family loving man though a little shy.

Papa Rufus Thomas ( image: The commercial appeal)

Death of Otis Redding

Otis had done a successful television show in Cleveland on December 9th 1967 and he was very upbeat he was to go for a show the next day in Madison Wisconsin and he, his band and members of the group Bar Kays flew on the 10th, James Brown in his autobiography said he had earlier warned Otis not to travel but he did not heed the advice.

Otis and his crew flew in his plane a Beecraft H18 aircraft, The weather was not very good and they were warned not to fly, 6.5km into the flight, the Pilot requested for emergency landing, but they never made it safely, the plane crashed at Lake Monana and only one member of the Bar Kays band survived, he had managed to clutch at a floatable object. Rescue teams recovered the body of Otis Redding the next day.

His burial was shifted from the 15th December 1967 to 18th December due to the national out pouring of grief and to accommodate the huge crowd paying their last respects. A memorial service was held for him in the city auditorium of Macon which overflowed with people. His body was entombed in his ranch.


Just like 2PAC three albums of Redding were released post humously after his death. He was said to have influenced the following artists

Aretha Franklyn

Marvin Gaye

Al Green

Bob Dylan

The Beatles

Led Zeppelin among others

Won 2 post humous Grammys and several inductions to different Halls of fame.

That's a wrap folks!. Many thanks to Wikipedia and all the media whose images we have used.

Click on the Link Below to listen to Musicfreakdom Channel where you get to hear the songs of the Artists featured on the Blog

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