Otis Redding (1941-1967)
In just a few short years,
Born on September 9, 1941, in Dawson, in Terrell County, Redding moved with his family to Macon when he was three years old. In order to offer financial help to his struggling family, Redding dropped out of Macon's Ballard Hudson High School in the tenth grade and went to work as a member of Little Richard's rock-and-roll band, the Upsetters. Redding met his wife, Zelma Atwood, in 1959, and the couple married in 1961. Two of their sons, Dexter and Otis III, would become musicians and music producers.
Redding was also a talented guitar player and music arranger. He would often share or communicate his musical ideas by whistling the part of a particular instrument for fellow musicians. In the early 1960s Redding was recognized as a major rhythm-and-blues talent and earned the admiration of British bands like the Rolling Stones with such songs as "That's What My Heart Needs" and "Chained and Bound." Mainstream acclaim eluded him, however.
Later that year, Redding—with the help of Stax Records guitarist Steve Cropper, of Booker T. and the MGs—wrote the ballad for which he is best known, "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay." Unfortunately, Redding would not live to see the song's success. On December 10, 1967, he was killed in a plane crash in Madison, Wisconsin. Released three months after his death, "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" was Redding's only number-one recording.
He was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
Geoff Brown, Otis Redding: Try a Little Tenderness (Edinburgh, Scotland: Mojo, 2001).
Scott Freeman, Otis! The Otis Redding Story (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001).
Peter Guralnick, Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom (New York: Harper and Row, 1986).
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 3d ed., comp. and ed. Colin Larkin (London: Muze, 1998), s.v. "Redding, Otis."
Chris Starrs, Athens
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