Otis Redding was born in Dawson, Georgia, in 1941 and grew up in Macon, Georgia. He was the son of a Baptist Minister at the Vineville Baptist church in Macon. At the age of 5, Otis began his singing career in the church choir. As a teenager, he played in his high school band until he dropped out of school to help his family financially.
The first professional band Otis worked with was Little Richard's former band, the Upsetters. At this time, he also performed in local talent shows. In 1960, Otis joined Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers. His early singing style was influenced by Little Richard and Ray Charles.
Otis Redding's personal success began during one of the recording sessions at Stax Records with Johnny Jenkins in 1962. The session with Johnny Jenkins wasn't progressing smoothly, and the owner of Stax Records asked Otis if he would like to finish the session on his own. Otis jumped to the opportunity and recorded a song that he wrote, "These Arms of Mine." This song remarkably became a Rhythm & Blues (R&B) hit and Otis Redding was well on his way to a prosperous solo career.
During 1965 and 1966, Otis began to turn out many R&B hits such as "I've Been Loving You Too Long," "Respect" (later recorded by Aretha Franklin), and a cover of the the Rolling Stones hit, "Satisfaction." Otis Redding also performed duets with another Stax star, Carla Thomas. Together they recorded the hit, "Tramp" in 1967.
Otis succeeded primarily within the Soul market, although he was respected by many white musicians, including Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, who recorded several covers of songs by Redding. "Pain in My Heart" is one such recording.
Otis Redding's first true breakthrough into the white pop market was during his lively performance at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival. His show was filled with high enthusiasm and energy that kept the audience full of spirit. Redding believed that music is the vehicle that ties all ethnic groups together. He had a white manager and a racially diverse band way before such mixing had ever been considered politically correct. No matter who his crowd was, he left them shouting and screaming for more.
Otis Redding admired the Beatles, and during the summer of 1967 he would sit on his houseboat practicing songs from the Beatles. That summer, while sitting on the dock, he wrote his signature piece, "(Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay." This song was recorded on December 7, 1967, three days prior to his tragic airplane crash into Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin. The crash killed Otis Redding and four of his band members. He was 26.
The timing of Otis Redding's death could not be any worse. Otis was just on the verge of making his major breakthrough into the mainstream market. He was also a successful businessman who owned his own publishing and recording company and 300-acre farm where his wife and four children lived. Otis Redding will always be remembered as a motivated, determined, and talented artist whose life was cut short with no telling just how high his career might have soared.
Page author: L.C.