Today we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Otis Redding, one of the greatest soul singers of all time. Among other things, Redding was the artist responsible for Aretha Franklin’s breakthrough song “Respect.” Aretha recorded the song in 1967 at her Atlantic recording session in New York City after she returned from her initial Atlantic session in Muscle Shoals. It turned out to be the song that broke Aretha nationally overnight.
According to Peter Guralnick in Sweet Soul Music, Redding presciently complained to Atlantic executive Jerry Wexler upon hearing Aretha’s version of “Respect” for the first time: “I just lost my song. That girl took it away from me.” Onstage at the Monterey International Pop Festival later that year, he complained: “The girl took that song away from me.” If you heard the song on the radio in the spring of 1967, you remember: She took the song away from him.
Redding’s frustration derived from the fact that he was an incredible singer and performer in his own right. Unlike Aretha, during his life he never came close to achieving the recognition he deserved.
Redding’s performance onstage at Monterey in 1967 before “the love crowd,” as he called it, backed by Booker T. and the M.G.’s and the Bar-Kays, is a quintessential moment of pop music history. D.A. Pennebaker gloriously captured Redding’s performance on film in “Monterey Pop,” including a memorable version of “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” Redding had written the song with Jerry Butler on tour in a Buffalo hotel room. In the black and white clip from “Monterey Pop” above, Redding turns in a beautiful performance.
Redding concluded his performance at Monterey with “Try a Little Tenderness,” the 1933 song he turned into something of a signature and proclaimed his favorite. “I got to go, y’all, I don’t wanna go,” he said at the end of the song. The following December he died tragically at the age of 26 in a plane crash on his way to a show in Madison.
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