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Otis Redding

Forty years after his passing, the legacy of Otis Redding remains stronger than ever. As the decades have gone by since December 10, 1967 when the world tragically lost one of its greatest soul singers, the power and impact of this Georgia-born R&B pioneer’s music and career shows no signs of diminishing. Through a recorded legacy that spans a mere six years (less than a decade?) but is filled with classic after classic, the man whose distinctive music influenced British rock stars and his American soul music peers alike continues to be accorded and afforded the global recognition and (borrowing the title of one of his most enduring compositions) respect he richly deserves.

In the annals of rhythm and blues, few artists are as deserving of the kind of admiration and love that Otis Redding has commanded since he first came to the attention of the mainstream music-buying public in 1963. Almost as soon as his initial recordings for Stax Records became available to avid R&B fans in Europe, Otis Redding became a prime influence for groups like Britain’s Rolling Stones and indeed, the reverence for his music throughout Europe resulted in packed audiences when he headlined the now-famous Stax/Volt Revue during its spring 1967 tour of the continent. In the U.S., Otis Redding’s star was mostly decidedly in it’s ascendancy after his show-stopping performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June of that same year, around the same time that singer Aretha Franklin, the future ‘Queen Of Soul’ was establishing herself as a hit-maker with her rendition of Otis’ own “Respect.”

In the company of such icons as Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Little Richard and James Brown, Otis Redding helped shape the direction of black music, using a blues- drenched vocal style, initially derived from his early years singing in church. Redding’s emotive heart-wrenching approach instantly distinguished him from other soul men of the day and on such ballads as “These Arms Of Mine” (his first national charted single) and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” (written with fellow R&B journeyman Jerry Butler) as well as an unforgettable cover of the pop standard “Try A Little Tenderness,” Otis Redding was his own man. On up- tempo groove sides like Redding compositions “Respect,” “Mr. Pitiful,” “I Can’t Turn You Loose” and a funky reading of The Stones’ “Satisfaction,” Otis ruled.

Masterpiece albums like “Otis Blue” “The Dictionary Of Soul” and “The Soul Album” became the template for recordings by others, filled with passionate performances that would influence more than one generation of recording artists. We can speculate that Otis Redding would probably have been truly surprised to know the degree to which his music would reverberate four decades after he first recorded it. Certainly, his humble beginnings in Georgia would have given no clue that ‘Big O’, as he was affectionately known, (as much because of his commanding physical stature as for his all-encompassing impact at Stax Records) would go on to become a global legend.

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Shyli Madhala
voice / vocals

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