Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” earns honors and hits historic No. 1


Arguably, Otis Redding’s best-known song is “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” That song holds a number of honors and is often discussed as the first posthumous No. 1 hit.

Redding’s recording career dates back to the late 1950s. Popular music experts theorize that he would have had an even greater number of hits had he lived. However, Redding’s reputation for being a soulful belter was already formed at the time of his death.

“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” comes from the album of the same name. Today marks when the song went No. 1 in the US and UK. The song was released in January 1968, one moth after Redding’s death. Redding died three days after recording the song, and one month before it was released.

“Dock of the Bay” isn’t the only song of Redding’s that is being remembered. According to otisredding.com, and bmi.com, music company BMI recently awarded “Million-AirAwards” to three of Redding’s songs. “Respect,” “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” and “Hard to Handle.” “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” had the most with 11 million performances.

Otis Redding and the Otis Redding Foundation

A look into Redding’s legacy reveals that he was able to prosper from his hard work, and to avoid being taken by unscrupulous managers and other administrators.

The Otis Redding Foundation provides a yearly, two-week music camp for children in Redding’s hometown of Macon, Georgia. BMI awarded the Million-AirAwards during the camp.

“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding

The allure of the song is marred by the posthumous nature of its release. Still, musically “Dock of the Bay” rewards listeners with its poetry and subtle melancholy.

Lines such as “…sittin’ here restin’ my bones/…this loneliness won’t leave me alone” points to a sort of sadness that Redding either identified in others or felt in himself. The song’s guitar line follows the lyrical part rhythmically, and it, too, moves between low-level cries and hollow sounding chord progressions at other points. The sound reminds listeners of being alone and reflecting.

“(Sittin’ On)The Dock of the Bay” was not Redding’s only posthumous release, but it is the best known.

Redding and several others were killed when his private plane crashed in Wisconsin.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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