About the song
If you are a fan of soul music, you probably know the song “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding. It is one of the most iconic and influential songs in the history of popular music, and it has a fascinating story behind it. In this blog post, I will highlight the history of this song, from its inspiration to its posthumous success.
Otis Redding was a rising star in the soul music scene in the mid-1960s. He had scored several hits with songs like “Respect”, “Mr. Pitiful”, and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”. He had also impressed audiences with his electrifying performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, where he shared the stage with acts like Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and Janis Joplin.
In August 1967, Redding was on tour with his band, the Bar-Kays, and he was exhausted by the demands of fame and touring. He decided to take a break and stay at a houseboat in Sausalito, California, where he could relax and enjoy the view of the San Francisco Bay. It was there that he started writing the lyrics for “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”, a song that reflected his feelings of loneliness, boredom, and longing for home.
He wrote: “Sittin’ in the morning sun / I’ll be sittin’ when the evening comes / Watching the ships roll in / And then I watch ’em roll away again”. He also added some whistling at the end of the song, as a placeholder for a future verse that he never got to write.
He returned to Memphis, Tennessee, in November 1967, where he teamed up with his friend and producer Steve Cropper, who was also the guitarist for Booker T. & the M.G.’s, the house band for Stax Records. Cropper helped Redding finish the song and added some guitar riffs and horn arrangements. They recorded the song at Stax Studios on November 22 and December 7, 1967.
The song was a departure from Redding’s usual style of upbeat and energetic soul music. It had a slower tempo, a folk-like melody, and a more introspective mood. Redding was influenced by the sounds of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and Simon & Garfunkel, who were expanding the boundaries of pop music at the time. He wanted to show his versatility as an artist and reach a wider audience.
However, not everyone was happy with his new direction. Some of his colleagues at Stax thought that the song was too soft and mellow for Redding’s powerful voice. They also disliked the whistling part, which they considered unfinished and unprofessional. Redding himself was not sure about the song’s commercial potential. He told Cropper: “I don’t know if it’s good or bad”.
Sadly, Redding never got to see how good his song was. On December 10, 1967, he died in a plane crash near Madison, Wisconsin, along with most of his band members. He was only 26 years old.
The song was released posthumously on January 8, 1968, on Stax’s Volt label. It became an instant hit, reaching #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B charts in the US. It also reached #3 on the UK Singles Chart. It was the first posthumous #1 single in US history, and it sold over four million copies worldwide.
The song also received critical acclaim and recognition. It won two Grammy Awards in 1969: Best R&B Song and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. It was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998 and into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2012. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #28 on its list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2004.
“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” is a timeless classic that showcases Otis Redding’s talent and soul. It is a song that speaks to anyone who feels lost, restless, or homesick. It is a song that captures a moment of tranquility and beauty in a turbulent world. It is a song that honors Redding’s legacy as one of the greatest singers and songwriters of all time.