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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Today Big O Would Turn 69

I just read that today marks Otis Redding's 69th birthday. He left us way too soon but not without a legacy that brings joy and beauty into our lives even four decades after his passing. Otis was one of the very first Soul artists I've been listening to as a young girl, and his songs were playing during many moments in my life both the exhilarated and the sorrowful.
I was talking with a German acquaintance the other day who is planning a US trip, including San Francisco. My advice to him was to visit Sauselito; I remember that town for its stunning beauty and the fact that Otis wrote his famous Dock of the Bay there -- on one of the houseboats.
Stax guitarist Steve Cropper wrote this [Dock of the Bay] with Redding. Cropper produced the album when Redding died, including this with various songs Redding had recorded the last few years. In a 1990 interview on NPR's Fresh Air, Cropper explained: "Otis was one of those kind of guys who had 100 ideas. Anytime he came in to record he always had 10 or 15 different intros or titles, or whatever. He had been at San Francisco playing The Fillmore, and he was staying at a boathouse (in Sausalito, across the bay from San Francisco), which is where he got the idea of the ship coming in. That's about all he had: 'I watch the ships come in and I watch them roll away again.' I took that and finished the lyrics. If you listen to the songs I wrote with Otis, most of the lyrics are about him. He didn't usually write about himself, but I did. 'Mr. Pitiful,' 'Sad Song Fa-Fa,' they were about Otis' life. 'Dock Of The Bay' was exactly that: 'I left my home in Georgia, headed for the Frisco Bay' was all about him going out to San Francisco to perform."                            


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