Thursday, December 10, 2009

Watching the ships roll in...

The plane crash that took the life of Otis Redding and members of his backup band, the Bar-Kays, occurred on this date in 1967 in the icy waters of Lake Mendota, about 60 miles west of where I live.

Most people who listened primarily to rock 'n' roll back then, including me, had heard little of Redding. The stations in our neck of the woods didn't play much R&B. Because of the strong night signal we generally tuned into Chicago's WLS, which adhered to a Top 40 format.

To give you an idea of what we were listening to at the time, here is the Billboard Top 5 for the first week of December 1967:

1. Daydream Believer, Monkees
2. The Rain, the Park, & Other Things, Cowsills
3. Incense and Peppermints, Strawberry Alarm Clock
4. To Sir, With Love, Lulu
5. I Say a Little Prayer, Dionne Warwick

Three days before his death Redding went into the studio to record "(Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay." You'd like to believe the song would've made it to the top of the charts regardless of the tragic circumstances. We'll never know, and it doesn't matter. It is a fact that "Dock of the Bay" eventually topped both the Pop and R&B charts, becoming the first posthumous No. 1 for an artist.

Here are four such artists and their songs, all great ones:

Otis Redding (d. Dec. 10, 1967) — "(Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay" (3-16-68)
Janis Joplin (d. Oct. 4, 1970) — "Me and Bobby McGee" (3-20-71)
Jim Croce (d. Sept. 20, 1973) — "Time in a Bottle" (12-29-73)
John Lennon (d. Dec. 8, 1980) — "(Just Like) Starting Over" (12-27-80)

No, I hadn't heard much of Otis Redding before his death. But I've heard that song a thousand times since, and in early months of 1968 I plugged my share of change into the jukebox just to hear it one more time. Now, of course, it's as easy as clicking the link at the top.

1 comment:

  1. I think it would have been a hit. Otis had made a powerful impression on the pop audience at the Monterey Pop Festival that previous summer.