Tag Archive: Otis Redding


portrait-of-a-legend

Before I dug into this album, which I picked up on Amazon Prime for $9 (two day shipping baby!), the only Sam Cooke song I thought I knew was “A Change Is Gonna Come.”  And I was aware of that song mostly because we studied it as a civil rights era anthem in one of my music history classes in college.  And like most things, one can study it in a class, but it wasn’t until I became a music teacher that I realized the true power of the song, as it truly has become transcendental in that it has been passed down from generation to generation.  More than any other song, and I include Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” in this statement, “A Change is Gonna Come” has been embraced as an anthem for change and equality and human rights by the old and the young across the nation.  And sadly, Sam Cooke didn’t live long enough to see the impact his masterpiece had on people across the country, but that is another story for another time.

So anyway, when I listened to this album, which is essentially a greatest hits package, I discovered that i knew several of the songs on it.  Songs like “(What a) Wonderful World”, “Chain Gang”, “Another Saturday Night”, and “Good Times”, were radio staples when I was kid.  I just never knew those songs were sung by Sam Cooke.  And as a singer, I certainly enjoyed Sam’s voice on this record.  Stylistically, his tenor voice sits somewhere between the silky smoothness of Marvin Gaye and the raw emotional power of Otis Redding.  And he sings in a full voice, rarely, if ever, using falsetto, which is a plus to me.  But, as much as I enjoyed Sam’s voice, I felt his talent was wasted on most of the songs on this album.  For the most part, these songs sound like same trite 50s pop you would have heard on the juke box in a soda shop.  And listening to this album, I just kept yearning to hear Sam sing something more substantial.  Maybe I need to look up his gospel recordings, as I really do like the first song on this album, “Touch the Hem of His Garment” a lot.  At any rate, he was a great singer, even if the quality of these songs doesn’t quite live up to the level of his talent.  And his take on the Gershwin classic “Summertime” is pretty awesome.

Other lists: “A Change is Gonna Come” is #12, “You Send Me” is #115, “(What a) Wonderful World” is #383, and “Cupid” is #458 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Sam Cooke is ranked at #4 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers and at #16 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.

Ch-ch-changes: Like most of the albums through this section, it is one spot lower than its original ranking at #106.  Kid A!

My favorite track: “Summertime”

Honorable mention: “Another Saturday Night”

Quote: “Yeah, come on and let the good times roll.  We’re gonna stay here till we soothe our souls.”

Otis Blue

It’s been awhile, I know.  Too long.  Grad school has been kicking my ass.  Finished the first draft of a 25 page paper yesterday, and while I wait for my professor to rip it apart and send it back for revisions, I thought I’d get back to the Exile.  Been waiting to write about this album for awhile.  I wish I had more to say about it, but I loves me some Otis.  I grew up with Otis around the house (and when I say house, I mean that ugly brown and yellow trailer on Myers Road).  Mi madre is a huge Otis fan, and to this day she is still sad that he died so young.  She played a lot of Otis while I was growing up, and she was forever going on about how great the Stax horn line was and stuff like that.  Otis Redding’s posthumous album, “The Dock of the Bay” was actually one of my first CDs back in the day, but I guess I’ll talk more about that when that album comes up on the list (along with a discussion of Pearl Jam’s stellar cover of that album’s title track).  This album was one I picked up at the Half Price Books on High Street near Worthington a year or so ago.  I snagged it for $6.99 (minus my 10% teacher-of-children discount), and I frequently use it to psyche myself up for work in the morning.

Historically, this album has some gems on it.  There is the original version of “Respect”, which Otis wrote, but of course it was the Aretha version that became famous.  There are some other great Otis originals as well, like “Ole Man Trouble” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, but otherwise it is the covers that stand out.  Chief among them are Otis’ version of Sam Cooke’s classic “A Change is Gonna Come”, Smokey Robinson/the Temptations’ “My Girl”, and the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”.  All throughout, that famous horn line brings the energy to the music, but it is Otis Redding’s voice that dominates this record.  Otis had none of the smoothness associated with his Motown R&B contemporaries (think the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, young Marvin Gaye, etc.).  No, Otis  was a southern soul artist in the vein of Little Richard and Ray Charles who always seemed to be pushing his voice to the breaking point.  It is that powerful, yet scratchy voice, that made Otis such a stellar musician.  There really isn’t much range to his voice, just pure emotion.  He did most of his own arranging too. It is a shame that his life was cut short so prematurely, but like so many others, I am grateful for the music he gave the world before he died.

Other lists: “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” is #111 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Otis is ranked #8 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers and he is #21 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.

Ch-ch-changes: This album dropped four spots from its original position at #74 due to the addition of CCR’s Chronicle and the rise of Radiohead’s Kid A, Paul Simon’s Graceland, and James Brown’s Star Time.

My favorite track: “Ole Man Trouble”

Honorable mention: “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”

Quote: “All I’m asking for is a little respect when I come home”