Today we observe the anniversary of the birth of the incomparable soul singer Otis Redding. Among other things, Redding was the artist responsible for Aretha Franklin’s breakthrough song “Respect.” Franklin 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 breakthrough that turned Aretha into a star overnight after years of struggle.
According to Peter Guralnick in Sweet Soul Music — a magnificent book — Redding complained with great foresight to Atlantic executive Jerry Wexler upon hearing Aretha’s version of “Respect” for the first time on playback in the studio: “I just lost my song. That girl took it away from me.” Onstage at the Monterey International Pop Festival later that year, he complained: “This girl, she just 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 in the final set at Monterey in 1967 before “the love crowd,” as he called it, backed by Booker T. and the M.G.’s and the Mar-Keys, is a transcendent moment of pop music history. D.A. Pennebaker 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 clip above, Redding gives a beautiful performance of the song.
Redding concluded his appearance at Monterey with “Try a Little Tenderness,” the 1932 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 age 26 in a plane crash on his way to a show in Madison.