Lake Monona Plane Crash in 1967 Took
the Life of Music Legend Otis Redding
by Hanna Eyobed, age 16
Otis Ray Redding Jr., known as the “voice of soul music,¨ was born on September 9, 1941, in Dawson, Georgia. Little did Redding know how great an impact he would make, and how far-reaching his legacy would become, in the world of music.
While growing up, Redding listened to the music of Sam Cooke and Little Richard and in the late 1950’s joined a band called the
. After spending 1960 in LA, where he released his own singles, he returned to his hometown in Georgia and joined the
, led by guitarist Johnny Jenkins. “These Arms of Mine¨ was a ballad recorded in Memphis with Jenkins; the song rose to No. 20 on the R&B charts in 1963.
Otis Redding moved to Memphis, a city with a vibrant music scene. He continued building his career, recording songs, and collaborating with other artists, including Carla Thomas and Arthur Conley.
One day in 1965, he recorded his first album,
Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul
. That same year he released “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (to Stop Now),” and a year later, “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song).” Well-known artist, Aretha Franklin, was fascinated by Redding’s work. In fact, Redding wrote one her most famous songs “Respect” and Franklin’s arrangement and rendition of it became a smash hit. This in turn inspired him to start his own label, which he called Jotis.
Besides his obvious success in the industry, Redding was well known for his energetic stage presence which is what truly made him a star. He performed at the Monterey International Pop Festival on June 17, 1967, where he was enthusiastically praised. In December of 1967, Redding recorded a song combining rhythm and blues with folk music that would go on to hit No.1 on the pop and R&B charts, “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay.”
Sadly, Otis Redding didn’t live to see one of his greatest songs hit #1 on the charts. Redding, at only age 26, died when the plane in which he was a passenger crashed into Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin. The crash took place just four days after he recorded “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay.”
His legacy outlived him. Three albums of all Redding recordings were released after his death and in 1989, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ten years later, Redding was also awarded the Lifetime Achievement award at the Grammy Awards. In a further tribute to his music, Kanye West and Jay-Z released “Otis” a compilation. It included Redding’s song “Try a Little Tenderness” for which they won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance in 2012.
Almost 20 years after his death, a plaque honoring Otis Redding was mounted on the lakeside deck of the Monona Terrace convention center in Madison. The plaque overlooks the site of the plane crash.