Remembering an essential soul musician

It’s sad that it takes an anniversary of a death sometimes to recall greatness.  It’s also a little sad that the name Otis is no longer in vogue – but I digress.

Today is the 42nd anniversary of the death of the late, great Otis Redding in a plane crash in Madison, Wisconsin. 

CNN has a commemoration of Redding’s life and a nice interview with his widow, Zelma, who has worked to keep his memory alive to this day.

Fortunately, the music is literally timeless.  There are countless numbers of retrospectives and compilations out there, but try to get your hands on a copy of Otis! The Definitive Otis Redding, a box set issued by Rhino Records in 1993 – now out-of-print, but available through various sellers for those willing to track it down.

And you should track it down.

Otis Redding belts it out (Atlanta, 1966)

A 1989 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and whose Hall biography rightly notes that Redding “embodies the essence of soul music in its purist form” and his “name is synonymous with the term soul, music that arose out of the black experience in America through the transmutation of gospel and rhythm & blues into a form of funky, secular testifying”), Otis Redding was quite simply a musical comet whose output should be remembered as nothing less than essential to the lexicon of music.

Most casual listeners know the posthumous #1 single (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay – a classic in its own right.  But the material he left behind, most of which charted on the R&B charts only during his recording career, is among the best of anyone in the rock and roll era.  There is simply no debate on this topic.

And, as noted in his All Music biography, having died at the incredibly young age of 26, “What Redding might have achieved, or what directions he might have explored, are among the countless tantalizing ‘what if’ questions in rock & roll history.” 

Sad, but true.  Fortunately, he accomplished enough in such a short period of time to stamp him as one of the all-time greats.

Do yourself a favor and get hip to Otis Redding – he may be 42 years gone, but that music remains top-notch.  Now and forever.

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~ by acm213 on December 10, 2009.

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