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Inside Otis Redding's Final Days before His Tragic Death at 26

Comfort Omovre
Jun 22, 2020
05:30 A.M.
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American singer-songwriter, Otis Redding, died in a plane crash on December 10, 1967 — here's all you need to know about his final days.
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Otis Redding was a musician so talented; he was dubbed the voice of soul music. His song, "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" hit No.1 and spent four weeks atop Billboard's Hot 100.

It started in March 1968, but Redding would never hear of its success as he died in a plane crash on December 10, 1967, at the age of 26.

Portrait of the late Otis Redding. Circa 1960 | Photo: Getty Images

Portrait of the late Otis Redding. Circa 1960 | Photo: Getty Images

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Redding reportedly recorded the hit song days before his demise. His friend, producer, and guitarist Steve Chopper, opened up about how excited Redding had been about the song.

According to Cropper, Redding ran into their recording studio at Memphis, asking him to get his guitar before he went on to sing some of the lyrics he'd penned while he stayed at Bill Graham's boathouse in Sausalito, Calif.

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It took the pair close to an hour to finish the song on that day; however, something felt missing. Cropper advised that they employ the Staple Singers to sing backup, and Redding was elated.

He traveled by flight to meet his wife and kids and returned the same way to check Cropper's progress. Cropper says:

"He popped his head into the control room and said, 'I'll see you on Monday.'"

Soul singer Otis Redding passionately gets down on his knees with his horn section behind him as he performs onstage in 1967 | Photo: Getty Images

Soul singer Otis Redding passionately gets down on his knees with his horn section behind him as he performs onstage in 1967 | Photo: Getty Images

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Soon after,

Redding

and the Bar-Kays — a group of kids from Memphis who just got out of high school who were his backup band — flew over to Cleveland for a performance on a show called "Upbeat."

Mitch Ryder, frontman for the Detroit Wheels, joined Redding in performing "Knock on Wood" — an experience he says is forever seared in his memories.

Soul singer Otis Redding performs onstage with his guitar player Steve Cropper of "The Bar-Kays" at Hunter College on January 21, 1967 | Photo: Getty Images

Soul singer Otis Redding performs onstage with his guitar player Steve Cropper of "The Bar-Kays" at Hunter College on January 21, 1967 | Photo: Getty Images

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Ryder said, "What impressed me was his actual physical size, he put his arm on my shoulder during the song, and was holding me close. He's rocking back and forth, and every time he rocks, my foot comes up."

After the show, Ryder returned home to Detroit, allegedly smiling throughout the trip. Redding performed at three shows that Saturday night at Leo's Casino in Cleveland.

His work stood as a foundation for modern R&B, and his songs are said to embody soul music itself.

Soul singer Otis Redding poses for a portrait in May 1966 in London, England. | Photo: Getty Images

Soul singer Otis Redding poses for a portrait in May 1966 in London, England. | Photo: Getty Images

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On Sunday, he and five members of the Bar-Kays left for the short flight to Madison, Wisconsin, for a gig — it was supposed to be his first tour in the private plane he had just acquired.

However, it was not to be — due to the cold, foggy and icy conditions, the plane crashed into Lake Monona, widely flinging debris, just four miles from the Madison Municipal Airport.

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Ben Cauley, the trumpet player, was the only survivor of the crash. When Redding's corpse was discovered the following day, he was still strapped to his seat.

Though Redding had just been 26 at the time of his demise, he was regarded by a large number of black and white listeners in the US and Europe as the most charismatic soul singer of his time.

American singer and songwriter Otis Redding (1941 - 1967) at Hunter College, New York City, 21st January 1967 | Photo  : Getty Images

American singer and songwriter Otis Redding (1941 - 1967) at Hunter College, New York City, 21st January 1967 | Photo : Getty Images

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He aspired to become the first African-American artist to sync with the audience for the album rock that had changed the world of popular music since the Beatles arrived in America in 1964.

More than half a century after his death, Redding's legacy still lives and has expressed itself in modern pop music. His work stood as a foundation for modern R&B, and his songs are said to embody soul music itself.

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