Saturday, December 11, 2010

Remembering a legend: The music of Otis Redding

(Note: A few months ago, I posted an article about Otis Redding that is very similar to this one. Friday was the 43rd anniversary of his death so I thought I would present it again.)

We all have hobbies and activities we enjoy. For me, I have had a lifelong appreciation of music and the people that create this special type of art.

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. Yesterday was the 43rd anniversary of his death, so his talent has been on my heart in recent days.

He conveyed emotion better than any other singer. It does not matter whether it was joy or pain; Otis brought it forward in 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. The plane crash that took his life happened only four years later. 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, and it includes his most well-known songs as well as other essential tunes.

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.

I am a lifelong Tennessean, and it is especially satisfying 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 music made by African-Americans at that time was being dominated 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.

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.

When reviewing Redding's musical catalogue, he produced a remarkable amount of music. After all, he was only 26 when he died.

With Christmas approaching, a good gift for any music lovers in your life would be a CD by Redding.

A person cannot go wrong listening to his music.

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