Otis Ray Redding, Jr. (September 9, 1941 – December 10, 1967) was an American soul singer. Redding was born in the small town of Dawson, Georgia.
When he was five, his family moved to Macon, Georgia, where Redding sang in a church choir and as a teenager won the talent show at the Douglass Theatre for fifteen weeks in a row. His earliest influence was Little Richard (Richard Penniman), also a Macon resident.
In 1960, Redding began touring the South with Johnny Jenkins and The Pinetoppers. That same year he made his first recordings, "Fat Gal" and "Shout Bamalama," with this group under the name "Otis Redding and The Pinetoppers," issued on the Orbit and Confederate record labels before being picked up by King.
In 1962, Redding made his first real mark in the music business during a Johnny Jenkins session when, during studio time left over, he recorded "These Arms of Mine," a ballad that he had written. The song became a minor hit on Volt Records, a subsidiary of the renowned Southern soul label Stax, based in Memphis, Tennessee. His manager was a fellow Maconite, Phil Walden.
Redding continued to release for Stax/Volt, and built his fan base by extensively touring a live show with support from fellow Stax artists Sam & Dave. Further hits between 1964 and 1966 included "Mr. Pitiful," "I Can't Turn You Loose" (a sped-up instrumental version was to become The Blues Brothers entrance theme music), "Try a Little Tenderness," "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones), and "Respect" (later a smash hit for Aretha Franklin).
Redding wrote many of his own songs, which was unusual for the time, often with Steve Cropper (of the Stax house band Booker T. & the M.G.'s, who usually served as Otis's backing band in the studio). Soul singer Jerry Butler co-wrote another hit, "I've Been Loving You Too Long." One of Redding's few songs with a significant mainstream following was "Tramp," (1967) a duet with Carla Thomas.
In 1967, Redding performed at the large and influential Monterey Pop Festival. His extraordinary musical gifts were then exposed to a wider audience and may have contributed to his subsequent success as a popular music recording artist.
On December 9, 1967, Redding and his backup band, The Bar-Kays, made an appearance in Cleveland, Ohio on the local "Upbeat" television show. That night they performed at Leo's Casino, a small venue club in Cleveland.
The next afternoon, Redding, his manager, the pilot, and four members of The Bar-Kays were killed when his Beechcraft 18 airplane crashed into Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin, on December 10, 1967. Redding's body was recovered the next day when the lake bed was searched.
He was entombed on his private ranch in Round Oak, Georgia, 23 miles north of Macon. The cause of the crash was never precisely determined.
"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" was released only three days after Redding's death. The song was released in January 1968 and became Redding's only number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, and the first posthumous number one single in U.S. chart history. Redding had recorded a massive amount of material in late 1967 just before his death (it was from these sessions that "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" emerged). Atlantic had enough material for three new Redding studio albums – “The Immortal Otis Redding” (1968), “Love Man”(1969), and “Tell the Truth” (1970) – which were all issued on Atlantic's Atco Records.
A number of successful singles emerged from these LPs, among them "Amen" (1968), "Hard to Handle" (1968), "I've Got Dreams to Remember" (1968), "Love Man" (1969), and "Look at That Girl" (1969). Singles were also lifted from two live Atlantic-issued Redding albums, “In Person at the Whisky a Go Go,” recorded in 1966 and issued 1968 on Atco, and “Monterey International Pop Festival,” a Reprise Records release featuring some of the live Monterey Pop Festival performances of The Jimi Hendrix Experience on side one and all of Redding's on side two.
Redding was inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994, and in 1999 he posthumously received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed three Redding recordings ("Shake," "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" and "Try a Little Tenderness") among its list of "The 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll."
In 2002, the city of Macon honored its native son, unveiling a memorial statue of Redding in the city's Gateway Park. The park is next to the Otis Redding Memorial Bridge, which crosses the Ocmulgee River. The Rhythm and Blues Foundation named Redding as the recipient of its 2006 Legacy Award.
In 1989 he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.