Otis Redding: ‘Dock of the Bay’ Celebrates 50th

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otis-redding-via-fbToday (Jan. 8) marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Otis Redding‘s landmark soul ballad “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” It became the singer’s only record to hit  #1 on both the R&B and pop charts. Sadly, he didn’t live long enough to celebrate.

Redding had recorded the track on November 22, 1967. Just a few weeks later, on Dec. 10, he perished in a plane crash. Today, the melancholy ballad with its signature whistled outro remains one of the most beloved songs in music history and the cornerstone of Redding’s hugely influential catalog. The track holds the distinction of being one of a handful of songs from the ’60s to have over 100 million streams on Spotify.

Rhino Records will reissue “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” as a 7″ single tomorrow (Jan. 9). Pressed on gold vinyl to mark the golden anniversary, the single is available here. A detailed reproduction of the original mono single, it features the B-side “Sweet Lorene,” is branded as a Volt release, and comes in a die-cut sleeve like those used by Atlantic Records, which distributed Stax/Volt Records at the time.

This single includes the rare, original version of the song, which is shorter and with Redding’s vocals noticeably lower in the mix. This original version was quickly pulled after a brief release and replaced with the version that the world has known ever since. This anniversary 7-inch marks the first time the original version has appeared on vinyl since the initial release in 1968.

In addition to the reissue, the Otis Redding Foundation is producing An Evening of Respect: Celebrating Otis Redding & 50 Years of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” on Thursday, Jan. 25, at the legendary Apollo Theater in New York City. The benefit show will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and feature performances by the Dap-Kings and very special guests, among them “Dock” co-writer Steve Cropper. The event will feature a pre-show cocktail reception fundraiser for the Otis Redding Foundation. Tickets are still available at Ticketmaster.com.

The reissued single is the first of several releases Rhino is planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay.” Already, The Definitive Studio Albums Collection, a seven-LP vinyl boxed set featuring mono mixes for all of Redding’s studio albums, from 1964’s Pain In My Heart to 1968’s Dock Of The Bay, was released on Dec. 15.

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At the time of Redding’s death, he’d already recorded close to 10 albums’ worth of original studio tracks plus a number of dynamic live performances. The Crown Prince of Soul boasted a beginning others would have been happy to call the bulk of a career, and in the process had written such indelible songs as “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” “Pain in My Heart,” “Mr. Pitiful,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” Try A Little Tenderness,” “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa/Sad Song,” and a few made famous by others like “Respect” by Aretha Franklin and Arthur Conley’s #1 hit “Sweet Soul Music,” which Otis wrote and produced. Redding was a proven master of soul music from soon after he stepped into Fame Studio in Memphis in 1962.

In early December, Redding had recorded a track that he and Steve Cropper had written, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” that was a near-perfect meld of rock with soul. Many at Fame Studios and Redding’s label Stax expressed doubts about it. Before Otis could track his final version, he and his backing band the Bar-Kays climbed into Redding’s twin-engine Beechcraft H18 to hit Cleveland, Ohio, to appear on the Upbeat television show and play two nights at a club called Leo’s Casino. He was then slated to play the Factory nightclub in Madison, Wisc.

The plane radioed for permission to land at Truax Field in Madison but instead crashed into Lake Monona, a few miles from the airport. Seven of the eight men aboard, including Redding, died.

In early 1968, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” became pop music’s first posthumous #1 hit. It would go on to sell over eight million copies.

The singer has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Georgia Music Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. He has been honored with a U.S. postage stamp and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Here’s a great live version of “Try a Little Tenderness”…

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