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Rhythm Revue Spotlight: Felix Hernandez on the legendary Otis Redding

An early promotional photo of Otis Redding, circa 1966.
Courtesy of Zelma Redding.
An early promotional photo of Otis Redding, circa 1966.

Who was the greatest soul singer of all time? Your answer could depend on a number of different things. Your generation, your preference for male or female singers, or both, a stylistic preference, it could be anything. But when I conducted this survey several times a few years ago, the top answer was always the same.

He was born September 9th, 1941 in Georgia, and died when he was just 26 years old. Many of us wonder what he would have sounded like had he lived past that young age. Would he have gone into obscurity like James Carr? Or would he have signed on with Malaco Records like Johnnie Taylor? Would he have done disco? Would he have done only gospel? No one knows for sure.

Otis Redding's recording career lasted just a brief five years. Almost all of it with Stax Records, based in Memphis, Tennessee. Otis’ first chart single was released in March of 1963 on Stax Records’ Volt label, “These Arms of Mine.” Otis Redding did not have a crossover Top 40 pop hit until 1965 with “I've Been Loving You Too Long.”

I've Been Loving You Too Long

His next hit single was the original version of a song that would become a theme song for Aretha Franklin, “Respect.” Later hits included his cover of the Rolling Stones’ hit “Satisfaction,” a soulful version of an old standard called “Try A Little Tenderness,” and a funky duet with Stax’s label mate, Carla Thomas, “Tramp.”

Otis Redding's biggest and most memorable hit single came out just after he died in a plane crash on December 10th, 1967, exactly three years after Sam Cooke, one of his idols, died from a gunshot wound.

Otis Redding was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

Listen above.

Otis Redding - (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay (Official Music Video)

Recommended Listening

Otis: The Definitive Otis Redding Box Set is all you need.

Deep cuts:

For deeper cuts, find the album Remember Me, with alternate takes and unreleased songs including a wonderful version of Sam Cooke's "Cupid."

Felix Hernandez started his career as a producer and radio journalist while in college. In the 1980’s, Felix independently produced the award-winning radio series BluesStage, which had a 6 year run on over 200 NPR stations. He also worked extensively as a journalist with WBEZ in Chicago, and NPR.