Otis Ray Redding, Jr. (September 9, 1941 – December 10, 1967) was an American singer and songwriter, record producer, arranger and talent scout. He is considered one of the greatest singers in popular music and a major artist in soul music and rhythm and blues. His singing style has been influential among the soul artists of 1960s and helped exemplify the Stax Sound. After appearing at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, he wrote and recorded "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" with Steve Cropper. The song became the first posthumous number-one record on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts after his death in a plane crash. The Dock of the Bay became the first posthumous album to reach number one on the UK Albums Chart.
Early on Redding copied his role model Richard, before gradually developing his own style. He was primarily influenced by soul musicians such as Cooke, whose live album Sam Cooke at the Copa was a strong influence, but later explored other popular genres. He studied the Beatles and Dylan. His song "Hard to Handle" has elements of rock and roll and influences of Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. Most of his songs were categorized as Southern soul and Memphis soul.
His hallmark was his raw voice and ability to convey strong emotion. Richie Unterberger of Allmusic noted his "hoarse, gritty vocals, brassy arrangements, an emotional way with both party tunes and aching ballads." In the book Rock and Roll: An Introduction, authors Michael Campbell and James Brody suggested that "Redding's singing calls to mind a fervent black preacher. Especially in up-tempo numbers, his singing is more than impassioned speech but less than singing with precise pitch." According to the book, "Redding finds a rough midpoint between impassioned oratory and conventional singing. His delivery overflows with emotion" in his song "I Can't Turn You Loose". Booker T. Jones described Otis' singing as energetic and emotional, but said that his vocal range was limited, reaching neither low nor high notes. Peter Buckley of The Rough Guide To Rock describes his "gruff voice, which combined Sam Cooke's phrasing with a brawnier delivery" and later suggested he "could testify like a hell-bent preacher, croon like a tender lover or get down and dirty with a bluesy yawp".
In his early career Redding mostly covered songs from popular artists, such as Richard, Cooke and Solomon Burke. Around the mid-1960s he began writing his own songs—always taking along his cheap, red acoustic guitar—and sometimes asked for Stax members' opinion of his lyrics. He often worked on lyrics with other musicians, such as Sims, Rodgers, Huckaby, Phil Walden and Cropper. During his recovery from his throat operation, Redding wrote about 30 songs in two weeks. Redding was the sole copyright holder on all of his songs.
Awards and Honors
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted him in 1989, declaring Redding's name to be "synonymous with the term soul, music that arose out of the black experience in America through the transmutation of gospel and rhythm and blues into a form of funky, secular testifying." Readers of the British music newspaper Melody Maker voted him as the top vocalist of 1967, superseding Elvis Presley, who had topped the list for the prior 10 years. In 1988, he was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Five years later, the United States Post Office issued a 29-cent commemorative postage stamp in his honor. Redding was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994, and in 1999 he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed three Redding recordings, "Shake", "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay", and "Try a Little Tenderness," among its list of "The 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll." American music magazine Rolling Stone ranked Redding at number 21 on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time" and eighth on their list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time". Q ranked Redding fourth among "100 Greatest Singers", after only Frank Sinatra, Franklin and Presley.
Five of his albums, Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul, Dreams to Remember: The Otis Redding Anthology, The Dock of the Bay, Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul and Live in Europe, were ranked by Rolling Stone on their list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time." The first album was singled out for praise by music critics; apart from the Rolling Stone listing at number 74, NME ranked it 35 on their list of the "Greatest Albums of All Time."