James Brown is considered the Godfather of soul. Aretha Franklin is certainly soul’s distinguished Queen. But, who holds the position of male royalty. Who is the King of soul? The answer is Otis Redding, and, if our quixotic, spinning world did not take him too soon, he would have been 69 years old yesterday.
1967 marked a phenomenal year for music. The Beatles released a little album called Sgt. Peppers, the “Summer of Love” brought a peaceful swarm of long-haired humans to San Francisco, Jethro Tull and Procul Harum were founded, The Doors released their first album and the Monterey Pop Festival became the first heavily attended rock festival, promoting a three-day musical exploration from June 16-18. At that festival was Mr. Otis Redding himself. And, after famously saying “So this is the love crowd,” he gave an excellent show to the grand, and probably stoned audience. Six months later Redding was dead at 26.
On December 9, 1967, after Redding and his Bar-Kays were in Cleveland, Ohio to appear on a local television show and perform at a small venue club called Leo’s Casino. On the afternoon of the 10th, Redding, four members of the Bar-Kays, his manager and his pilot died when the Beechcraft 18 airplane they were in crashed into Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin.
Three days before the crash, Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” was recorded, and Redding’s unfinished masterpiece – the whistled verse was going to have lyrics put to it – became the first posthumous number one single in U.S. chart history. There was actually so much recorded material from Redding that another three studio albums and a few successful singles were released after his death. The first, The Immortal Otis Redding, released in 1968, was correct in its title. Redding’s brand of soul music is as relevant today than it was back at the time of his death. Search “The Dock of the Bay” on Youtube and you will see numerous covers of the song done by known, modern musicians. He still garners tremendous respect and I believe “The Dock of the Bay,” with its smooth, ocean sound and even the eerie concluding whistle, supports the claim that Redding was, and still is, the very best soul voice to ever grace our radios. Just listen to his effortless croon and his remarkable command.