Lex Neon on Otis Redding

Did you ever see a live performance that had so much power that you started to cry?  If not, I suggest you check out Otis Redding’s performance of “Shake” from the deluxe edition of Monterey Pop. Just minutes ago, I was checking it out for the first time in a long while, and started to “go soft.”  They just don’t make ’em like that anymore!

Every decade has its voices that define “soul.”  By “soul,” I mean that certain intangible, unexplainable force that comes from within and showers the world with a style so unique that your goosebumps have goosebumps.  For the 1960s, that “soul” came from the voice of Otis Redding.  Otis perished in a tragic plane crash in December 1967, about a year before I was born.

My mom was crazy about Otis Redding!

I’d heard of the man through “(Sitting On The) Dock Of The Bay.”   My first real taste of the volcanic Otis Redding “experience,” however came when I was about 11.  Unable to sleep, I decided to wait up for my mom, who was putting in extra hours at the hospital where she worked.  I turned on the t.v. just in time to catch a showing of Monterey Pop, the documentary of the famous “granddaddy” of rock festivals.  I grabbed a bowl of Cap’n Crunch, and sat down for a lesson in musical history.

At some point, Otis Redding popped onto the screen belting out a truncated, raucous version of Sam Cooke’s “Shake.”  His backing band, the mighty Booker T. and the MGs, were rockin’ right along with him.  Just then, my mom walked through the door.  She stood there for a second and simply said, “Otis Redding.”  With a smile on her face, she quickly put her coat away and joined me on the couch.

Otis went into “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” and mom let out a very heavy sigh.  “That’s what I used to listen to when I was in high school, before you were born.  Your aunts, Cousin Joanie, and I used to play Otis Redding records in the dark and talk.  We’d listen to other things, like Motown, Sam and Dave, and Aretha Franklin.  But Otis? That man could sing!”

Otis went into the “Good God, almighty! I love ya” portion of the song, and mom sat there silent.  When the performance was over, she smiled and gave me a kiss goodnight.  A few minutes later she was on the phone with Joanie, talking about the “good ol’ days.”  I finished the movie and went through the family collection in search of Otis Redding records.  I found it in a lone album called Dock Of The Bay.

I collected re-issued 45s of his hits, I didn’t truly appreciate Otis until I went away to college.  As a gift, my mom purchased a 6 album set called The Otis Redding Story and gave it to me, along with her old copy of Dock Of The Bay album.  That first year away from home, I would play all 12 sides of her gift and remember that night we shared Otis’ soul just as she did with her sisters and cousin before I came into being.

I could mention scores of Otis performances and recordings that take me somewhere deep into the heart of soul music.  And I may sound like a 40 year old music snob, but so be it.  They just don’t make singers of this caliber anymore.  In the 21st century, we have nothing that compares to the soulful emotion and depth of Otis Redding.  Sure, we have John Legend and Usher.  But they are teddy bears, compared to Otis’ fearless lion.  There will never be another one of Otis’ kind.

Happy birthday, Otis. You may be gone, but you live on.

(Lex Neon is the musical mastermind behind the music of indie sunshine pop / rock band Poppermost.  For more info, go to http://www.poppermost.com/)

Please note: Dock of The Bay was originally released posthumously on February 23, 1968.

Currently listening :
The Dock of the Bay
By Otis Redding
Release date: 2003-09-23
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~ by Poppermost on September 11, 2008.

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