The next singer on the countdown had what I believe was the greatest voice EVER. No one before or since can sing a song with such a heart wrenching achingly impassioned vocal that was Otis Redding’s signature sound. His talent for writing songs was also phenomenal, as he either wrote or co-wrote such classics as “Respect”, (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”, “I Can’t Turn You Loose”, “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember”, “These Arms of Mine” and the #2 song on the countdown, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long“.
Co-written with Jerry Butler and released in the spring of 1965, the song hit #2 on Billboard’s R&B chart & #21 on its Hot 100 chart, giving Redding his first hit song. The lyrics are simple, straight forward yet unbelievably powerful in Redding’s pleading vocal:
“My love is growing stronger, as you become a habit to me
Oh, I’ve been loving you too long
I don’t wanna stop now”
This song is ranked #110 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list, with Redding ranked at #8 on their list of the 500 Greatest Singers of All Time. If you have never heard this man’s glorious voice or this song, please listen to it now. You have been denied this gift long enough.
Or better yet, watch Redding’s entire performance from 1967’s Monterey Pop Music Festival. This song comes on at the 6:53 mark, but all 5 songs Redding delivers in his high energy persona are worth the watch (not to mention a glimpse of Booker T & the MG’s and the Mar-Keys providing the music to his phenomenal show) . If you have never seen any part of this performance, it will change your life. Nothing I write will come close to describing this legend of soul.
Redding was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 by Little Richard.
In the blog featuring the #10 song on the countdown, I wrote that the end to Jackie Wilson’s story was one of the saddest in music. Well, Redding’s is the first, in my humble opinion. His entire music career took place by the time he was 26 years old, with the exception of his only #1 record which hit that spot several weeks after his death (for “Dock of the Bay”, which also earned Redding two posthumous Grammy Awards for Best Male R&B Performance and Best R&B Song). Add to that the fact that Redding left behind a young wife, three very small children and only gave us a glimpse of what his voice could have done for the world throughout his future career, and the story is almost too sad for words.
Redding died in a plane crash in Wisconsin’s Lake Monona on December 10, 1967. Five members of his touring band, the Bar-Kays, were also killed.
I have been to the R&R HOF twice since it opened, and while I loved the history of it all and the spectacular artifacts on display to help illustrate the story that is rock & roll, it was unbelievably daunting to come thisclose to the display showcasing parts of the twin-engine Beechcraft plane wreckage Redding was killed in. The fact that we have lived without his voice for almost half a century is heartbreaking enough on its own.
At least we had him for a little while. What a gift he was to music.