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The Life of Otis Redding (American Legends Series) - Charles River Editors

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The Life of Otis Redding (American Legends Series) - Charles River Editors

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“If you want to be a singer, you've got to concentrate on it twenty-four hours a day. You can't be a well driller, too. You've got to concentrate on the business of entertaining and writing songs. Always think different from the next person. Don't ever do a song as you heard somebody else do it.” – Otis Redding

At a time when the studios of Motown were turning out one sophisticated, well-groomed artist after another, reinforced by the latest studio technology and benefitting from a powerful marketing system, a parallel industry of more traditionally grounded soul music was also thriving, much of it in the city of Memphis, as represented by artists such as Otis Redding and Stax Records, the label with which Redding would eventually create six studio albums, 30 singles, worldwide fame and a stellar musical legacy.

To some, the Stax Records model may have lagged behind Motown in terms of modernity, with its adherence to older musical and technological modes, but in actuality, Otis Redding and his musical circle represented a preservation movement of sorts, and “exemplified to many listeners the power of Southern ‘deep soul’ – hoarse, gritty vocals, brassy arrangements, and an emotional way with both party tunes and aching ballads.” Such was the perfect conduit for an artist like Otis Redding, who felt compelled by the lifelong urge to sing, years before his dreams of a professional life would ever be realized. And, as the edifice of soul broke further into sub-styles, Redding seemed able to succeed in every one of them.

The tragic timing of his death robbed Redding of the chance to parlay his success to the next level, but in retrospect, later audiences have not experienced him as either behind the times or inordinately modern. In “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” Redding defines and redefines the term “soul man,” and he is widely regarded by the 21st century as a “singer of such commanding stature that…he embodies the essence of soul music in its purest form.” What was so original and untested in the beginning for the wider audience now occupied a place within its mainstream interests as the new soul forms became more clearly understood. Through his most popular effort, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” and by a later review of his entire body of work, Redding is also regarded as one of the premier songwriters and arrangers of his era. In both areas, he had “an enormous talent, a hard-working nature and generous disposition. A 44 page life summary as part of the American Legends series (paperback / booklet, new).

 


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