Hey Music Court readers. Sorry I have been a bit terse (more like complete radio silence) over the past several weeks. It often does seem that I lose big chunks of time when I’m busy. That said, I am back with another literary/music mix because as an English teacher I cannot contain myself.
There are some songs that contain an untenable eeriness to them, and Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay” is one of them. Otis Redding, whose promising career was tragically cut short because of a plane crash, recorded the song days before the crash. The melancholic but peaceful whistle at the song’s fade was, as the story goes, supposed to be an ad-lib spoken word by Redding, but he forgot it and instead whistled – which perhaps is the most known part of the song now. He never had a chance to correct this extemporaneous ending.
I want to focus, though, on the lyric (of course). In the song, Redding paints an image of littoral beauty, a depiction of matutinal beauty from his houseboat. The song, which features the existential reflection of Redding sitting and watching the sea, makes me think of Jay Gatsby, another character – albeit fictional – who spends time staring at the water with a sense of longing. In a sense, Gatsby is revealed through Redding’s lyric, “Looks like nothing’s gonna change; Everything still remains the same.” Redding clearly does not want his perfect visage to end, and Gatsby, similarly, does not want his perfect image of Daisy Buchanan, his first and only love, to change. That said, life does get in the way, and Redding and Gatsby both meet unfortunate ends because, let’s face it, everything changes. In our memory, though, we will always have the bay.