Episode 163 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay", Stax Records, and the short, tragic, life of Otis Redding. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode.
Patreon backers also have a twenty-three minute bonus episode available, on "Soul Man" by Sam and Dave.
Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/
No Mixcloud this week, as there are too many songs by Redding, even if I split into multiple parts.
The main resource I used for the biographical details of Redding was Dreams to Remember: Otis Redding, Stax Records, and the Transformation of Southern Soul by Mark Ribowsky. Ribowsky is usually a very good, reliable, writer, but in this case there are a couple of lapses in editing which make it not a book I can wholeheartedly recommend, but the research on the biographical details of Redding seems to be the best.
Information about Stax comes primarily from two books: Soulsville USA: The Story of Stax by Rob Bowman, and Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion by Robert Gordon.
Country Soul by Charles L Hughes is a great overview of the soul music made in Muscle Shoals, Memphis, and Nashville in the sixties.
There are two Original Album Series box sets which between them contain all the albums Redding released in his life plus his first few posthumous albums, for a low price. Volume 1, volume 2.
This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them?
A quick note before I begin -- this episode ends with a description of a plane crash, which some people may find upsetting. There's also a mention of gun violence.
In 2019 the film Summer of Soul came out. If you're unfamiliar with this film, it's a documentary of an event, the Harlem Cultural Festival, which gets called the "Black Woodstock" because it took place in the summer of 1969, overlapping the weekend that Woodstock happened. That event was a series of weekend free concerts in New York, performed by many of the greatest acts in Black music at that time -- people like Stevie Wonder, David Ruffin, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, the Staple Singers, Sly and the Family Stone, Nina Simone, and the Fifth Dimension.
One thing that that film did was to throw into sharp relief a lot of the performances we've seen over the years by legends of white rock music of the same time. If you watch the film of Woodstock, or the earlier Monterey Pop festival, it's apparent that a lot of the musicians are quite sloppy. This is easy to dismiss as being a product of the situation -- they're playing outdoor venues, with no opportunity to soundcheck, using primitive PA systems, and often without monitors. Anyone would sound a bit sloppy in that situation, right?
That is until you listen to the performances on the Summer of Soul soundtrack. The performers on those shows are playing in the same kind of circumstances, and in the case of Woodstock literally at the same time, so it's a fair comparison, and there really is no comparison.
Whatever you think of the quality of the *music* (and some of my very favourite artists played at Monterey and Woodstock), the *musicianship* is orders of magnitude better at the Harlem Cultural Festival
[Excerpt: Gladys Knight and the Pips “I Heard it Through the Grapevine (live)”]
And of course there's a reason for this. Most of the people who played at those big hippie festivals had not had the same experiences as the Black musicians. The Black players were mostly veterans of the chitlin' circuit, where you had to play multiple shows a day, in front of demanding crowds who wanted their money's worth, and who wanted you to be able to pl