Thursday, June 10, 2010

Otis Redding is the best singer I have ever heard

As regular readers of this blog know, I write a lot about music. I don't really know why other than I enjoy doing it.

I have listened to a lot of music in my life. When a person listens to that much music, it is easy for it to blend together into one big jumble. Because of this, it takes something or somebody really special to stand out above everything else.

When it comes to singing, soul singer Otis Redding is the best I have ever heard. He conveyed emotion better than any other singer. It does not matter whether it was joy or pain; Otis brought it forward with purity. And not many other singers have done that.

Beginning in 1963, when he released the single 'These Arms of Mine,' it became clear that he was somebody special. Of course, his career would not last long. He died in a plane crash in December 1967. Fortunately he left us with a lifetime's worth of music.

For anybody looking for an introduction to his music, I recommend The Best of Otis Redding that was originally released in 1972. It is fairly comprehensive. It includes his most well-known songs as well as other essential songs.

Redding's songs found success on the rhythm and blues chart almost from the beginning, but it took a while for him to dent the mainstream pop chart. However, by 1965, he started seeing some success.

'I've Been Loving You Too Long (to Stop Now)' and 'Respect' both made the top 40 on the pop chart that year. Of course, Aretha Franklin would have much more success with 'Respect' two years later. However, at this point, Redding seemed on his way.

In 1966, 'Try a Little Tenderness,' 'Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song),' and his version of The Rolling Stones 'Satisfaction' all made the top 40. Not huge hits, but good enough to keep the momentum going.

As a lifelong Tennessean, it is cool that most of his record making took place in Memphis. Backed many times by Booker T. and the MG's and the Mar-Keys on horns, his music represented the voice of soul music in the South. Though 'black' music at that time was being dominated commercially by Motown in Detroit, soul music from the South was making strong in-roads on the charts.

Redding's most well-known appearance happened about six months before his death at the Monterey International Pop Festival in California. When comparing his performance there with other live performances, there was an urgency that seemingly was never there previously.

Of course, Redding was a masterful performer his entire career, but there was something about the Monterey performance that was mesmerizing. He and the band performed in a frenzy. He seemed determined to wring out every last drop of his talent.

Redding was playing in front of a huge audience that demographically was different from his usual audience. He had to have known that this performance could propel his career to places it had never been. Whatever the case, he delivered a remarkable performance, and his music was brought to a new audience.

By January of the following year, he would have his only number one hit on the pop chart with '(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay.' Redding was dead by then, but at least his music made it to the large audience that his talent deserved.


Mister Jimmy said...

One of the all-time great voices. And he wrote or co-wrote many, if not most, of those songs and is a member of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

Chris said...

I agree. His writing exploits are one of the great secrets of his career. Most don't realize that Redding wrote 'Respect' that Aretha Franklin had such a big hit with. Also, he co-wrote 'Dock of the Bay' with Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MG's.