OTIS REDDING.  "Mr. Dock of The Bay". I'm being neither trite nor flippant when I use that term. If ever there was a sad loss to the Music World it was that of the incomparable Otis Redding.  "Dock of The Bay" was recorded just four days before he died in a plane crash. Otis had a number of hits prior to "Dock of the Bay", notably his R&B issue of 'Mr. Pitiful" which showed in the Top Ten charts in 1965, but none of his titles went past the # 21 mark in the Top Forty charts.  "Dock Of The Bay" went to number one in 1968 and stayed there for four weeks. Everyone knows that song. Everyone loves that song. Why ?  Otis Redding was born on September 9 1941 in Macon, Georgia. Otis Redding died in a plane crash on December 10 1967. No matter how one tries to juggle those dates, you come up with the same sad answer, he was alive for a short 26 years. The Gentleman's voice, his delivery, the sincerity, the performance, it was all there. And Steve Cropper's sad little guitar phrases helped to bring Otis' picture into focus. When I listen to Otis singing that song I'm there - on the "Dock Of The Bay".  I had to spend a lot of time with that recording for a cover version I was doing , which I'll get to in a moment, but after listening to Otis for a month I new the song pretty well. I knew what he was singing about, oh not just the words, but the place, the atmosphere, the feeling of desolation as you sit from morning till night watching the Big Ships rolling in and then sailing away again. Without You. Oh where is MY ship ? It seems, in your Loneliness, that everyone's ship comes in except yours. Otis tells it beautifully.  "Left my home in Georgia, Headed for the 'Frisco Bay".  Oh how the Golden Lights of the big city shine for a country boy. And the 'Frisco Bay has been my home ever since. No bucks in my pocket, nothing in my belly, and I'm so down I just have nothing to live for anymore. Like thousands of others, I've been there, and Otis runs the movie again every time I hear the song. The words and performance come close to conveying a picture of total hopelessness, of rejection and dejection, yet I'm always left feeling a little better everytime I hear it. As if my Spirit has had a good wash. At the beginning of this article I asked why Otis Redding and this particular song became such an enormous hit.
Honesty. For me that's where the answer lies. Otis, like the Great Billie Holiday told the story truthfully and simply. No frills or fancy work. A very simple arrangement, a lovely little bass Figure, Steve cropper's guitar and Otis telling it like it is. It couldn't be more unaffected. There's barely a skeleton of a band, and yet the Impression you get is one of fullness. When someone lays the truth down you don't need anything else. Truth = Soul. Otis is a Giant in the World of Soul music.  Just four years of recordings, from his early sessions with Stax / Volt in 1963 to his death in 1967 but they stand as a legacy to this Great Artist. He had all the necessary ingredients that are required for an artist to be a true Superstar. A great Voice, an incredible talent for songwriting - he wrote "Respect" which was a monster hit for Aretha Franklin, He was a guitarist, an arranger, and Soul, R&B, Gospel, Blues, these were his heritage and his everyday Musical Diet. And last but not least a big big talent for hard work. A Superstar indeed, long before He was credited with being so.  Otis was discovered while working with the "Pinetoppers", a band formed by Macon guitarist Johnny Jenkins and Otis cut his first tracks as a member of that band in 1960 for the "Confederate" label, a tiny organisation. When the band was booked to record some titles for Stax in 1962 Otis got his chance. At the end of a session he cut a song which he had written himself - "These Arms of Mine" - and the result was so impressive that Otis knew he had to go it alone. He established himself firmly in the Stax Roster by his collaboration with Booker T and the MG's, the House band at Stax studios. And the guys all testify to Otis' magical ability to turn a band on. They just wanted to play music with Otis. He galvanised every recording session into action with his great passion and intensity, and he injected that Passion and intensity into his live performances, routinely carrying his audiences to the edge of pandemonium wherever he appeared.  Albums such as "Otis Blue"  "Otis Redding Sings Soul" which was recorded over a single 24 hour period, are milestones in the history of Soul Music. He stole the show when he appeared at the Monterey International Pop festival on June 17 1967. His rendition of "Try a Little Tenderness" became a classic which other Artists would copy throughout the years.  Otis was all set for Superstardom when his private plane crashed killing himself and four members of his touring band - "The Bar-Keys". Today, although he's gone, he is a Superstar. And as a last word I return to that cover version of "Dock of The Bay" I cut with Don Partridge around  1968-69. We didn't change a thing. I realised, after a month's hard listening, that to change anything would have been a travesty. OTIS REDDING was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.  God Bless His Memory and His music.  

SAM COOKE.  Samuel Cooke, Born January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. This Gentleman was an exceptional performer and Composer. A Veritable Giant in The World of Popular Music.    "You Send Me".  Ah, what guy hasn't dreamed of holding a girl in his arms, swaying on the dance floor, lost in her perfume,listening to Sam Cooke singing "You Send Me". Sam's beautiful haunting rendition of this song went to number one in the U.S charts on June 1st 1957, knocking "Jailhouse Rock" and Elvis off the top spot where Elvis had reigned for seven weeks. Sam started singing with the "Soul Stirrers" when He was 19 years old. This group included two of his sisters and a brother . The group recorded for the "Speciality" label. Sam released a single in in 1956 called "Loveable" on the same "Speciality" label using the name Dale Cooke.  He had several hits with "Speciality" before moving to RCA Victor in 1960. Apart from being an incomparable performer Sam was also a composer of great merit. His compositions include : "Bring It On Home To Me" "A Change Is Gonna Come" " Another Saturday Night" and that great Classic "Cupid" which was also a great hit for Johnny Nash. The outstanding features about Sam's compositions were his sense of beauty in the construction of a melody and his great love and tenderness in his performance of a song. Combined with absolute sincerity and gentleness in his delivery, especially in his handling of a Love Ballad , these attributes made Sam a devastating performer.
A straight forward, no nonsense approach was a great feature of Sam's immense talent. Just sing the song Baby, let it speak for itself. Sam didn't need any Hype. "You Send Me" - a Classic in American popular music- sold a million copies in 1957 alone. This was composed by Sam and his Brother L.C.Cooke. Sam was loved and appreciated by  Black and White audiences alike. His poularity crossed racial barriers because the sentiments He expressed : Love ,Tenderness, Sincerity are experienced by us all. Sam wrote most of his own material and look at just three of his wonderful compositions : "Wonderful World" "Only Sixteen" and that Mammoth Hit  "Chain Gang".  The fact that these songs are still recorded and performed today by various artists underlines the strength of Sam's masterful prowess for Musical composition.  Sam was also a record producer of immense talent and established his own independet label "S.A.R" releasing tracks such as "Rome wasn't built In A Day" by the Simms Twins and "Sooth Me" by Johnny Taylor. When He died He left some unreleased material in the vaults and so in 1965 the World benifited from great songs like " Shake" and " A Change Is Gonna Come", the latter being quite prophetic in it's story line as regards the breaking down of Social barriers and Racial discrimination. In 1982 "Twistin' The Night Away"  became a hit World Wide. Sam's songs were Universally popular but He never gave the impression of being cheap or pandering to the demands of a commercial market, He was simply adored by the listening public and personally I am a great fan of the Immortal Sam Cooke. Who isn't ? I've never heard anyone put Sam down as an artist. On June 15 1993 He was awarded the Apollo Theater Foundation Chairman Award . It was an incalculable loss to all music lovers when He was shot to death on December 11 1964. Ah, what a travesty. Sam didn't live to see just how prophetic his words were in "A Change Is Gonna Come" and how that prophecy was to be fulfilled in the development and social understanding of the Great Nation of The United States Of America. Look at this list of Songs that Sam either composed or was associated with as a recording Artist. "When I Fall In Love" "Night Beat" " Shake Rattle And Roll" "Little Red Rooster" " Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen" "Fool's Paradise" " Cupid" "Night Beat"  " "Twistin The Night Away"  " Laughin' And Clownin' "  " I Lost Everything" _ and this is just a little taste of Sam's immense musical repertoire. If You love Music You must love the Great Sam Cooke. A Superstar indeed. A great indicator of Sam's undying popularity is the number of Web Sites devoted to this Phenomenal Artist, pay them a visit for a more " In Depth " look at this Gentleman's Life and His Work. Do yourself a big favour and check them out.  Get some Sam Cooke today. Sam was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on January 23  1986.  God Bless His Memory and His Music. (c)moretti
all articles (c) JoeMoretti music International