Trying To Get To You

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Thoughts About Otis

I think one of the great, unanswerable questions of the rock n’ soul era is, “What would have happened if Otis Redding had lived?”

Three days before he died on December 10, 1967, he recorded what is generally regarded to be his greatest song, “Dock Of The Bay.” In June of that year, performing at the Monterey Pop festival as the only soul artist on a bill with rock and folk rock acts, he was one of the festival’s biggest winners (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and perhaps the Who would have been his only competition), performing in front of a predominately white audience for the first time. He was the soul performer most touched by what was going on in the rock world; looking for new directions in his own music, he wore out copies of “Sgt. Pepper,” and he sat with Bob Dylan, telling him that he would cover “Just Like A Woman.” He was an artist consciously moving beyond the limits he had once had in place, aware that he was risking alienating his core audience. Jim Stewart, the owner of Stax, didn’t even like “Dock Of The Bay,” according to Booker T & the MG’s bassist, Duck Dunn,

“It was just too far over the border for Jim. It had no r&b in it whatsoever, according to what Stax was. And I agreed with Jim at the time. I thought it might even be detrimental."
Just as James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” (released in 1967) signified with it’s skeletal beats the direction where black rhythms would go, “Dock Of The Bay” symbolized another shift – the merging of soul with folk and rock, and it was a shift that with Redding’s death, came to a rapid end. What other incredible songs were ready to flow from Redding’s pen and mouth? We’ll never know - one of the truly tragic "what if's" in rock n' soul history.

Download: "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" (Take One)

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