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By Jonathan Gould
Published by Three Rivers Press on 2018-05-15
HUMOR, BIOGRAPHY and AUTOBIOGRAPHY, MUSIC, HISTORY
The long-awaited, definitive biography of The King of Soul, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Redding’s iconic performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.
Otis Redding remains an immortal presence in the canon of American music on the strength of such classic hits as “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “Try a Little Tenderness,” and “Respect,” a song he wrote and recorded before Aretha Franklin made it her own. As the architect of the distinctly southern, gospel-inflected style of rhythm & blues associated with Stax Records in Memphis, Redding made music that has long served as the gold standard of 1960s soul. Yet an aura of myth and mystery has always surrounded his life, which was tragically cut short at the height of his career by a plane crash in December 1967.
In Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life, Jonathan Gould finally does justice to Redding’s incomparable musical artistry, drawing on exhaustive research, the cooperation of the Redding family, and previously unavailable sources of information to present the first comprehensive portrait of the singer’s background, his upbringing, and his professional career.
In chronicling the story of Redding’s life and music, Gould also presents a social history of the time and place from which they emerged. His book never lets us forget that the boundaries between black and white in popular music were becoming porous during the years when racial tensions were reaching a height throughout the United States. His indelible portrait of Redding and the mass acceptance of soul music in the 1960s is both a revealing look at a brilliant artist and a provocative exploration of the tangled history of race and music in America that resonates strongly with the present day.
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Praise for Otis Redding An NPR Best Book of 2017 A Rolling Stone Best Music Book of 2017 'An absorbing and ambitious book . . . [that] succeeds in making [Redding] seem a good deal more remarkable by taking the measure of the historical circumstances he emerged from . . . Among the great pleasures . . . are [Gould's] very considered assessments of each of Otis's albums, track by track.' ? The New York Review of Books '[An] impressive biography . . . Access to Redding's surviving family members helps Gould flesh out his upbringing and offstage personality.' ? The New York Times Book Review 'Magisterial . . . With meticulous scholarship, lively prose, and a tale that uses a singular musician as a springboard into interrogating America's political and popular cultures, Gould has created a vital book that helps contextualize one of the most important figures in pop music.' ? Boston Globe 'Perceptive . . . An incisive and deeply humanistic portrait.' ? Wall Street Journal 'The beloved '60s soul titan . . . comes alive in Gould's insightful, wellresearched biography.' ? People 'Gould vividly brings to life the man Stax Records boss Jim Stewart called 'a walking inspiration? . . . From his supreme triumphs to his one last heartbreaking phone call to Zelma, devotees and soul scholars alike could not wish for a more thorough and sensitive portrait.' ? Mojo 'A rich picture of [Redding's] world . . . illuminating.' ? Rolling Stone
'Wonderful.' ? The Atlantic 'Gould . . . sets skyhigh aspirations for his book, attempting not to merely chronicle Redding's meteoric life but to use him as the backdrop for a larger story about race in America, the history of soul music, and the rise of Memphis's small but powerful Stax Records. He does that gracefully.' ? Dallas News 'Jonathan Gould's muchheralded biography . . . builds beautifully, more like a great soul ballad than the dance hall hit so many music biographies aim at becoming. One feels the time that's gone into the book's organization, its exegesis, its every insightful and often quite funny sentences.' ? Hudson Valley One 'Some of the best parts of Gould's book are his incisive descriptions of Redding's live performances and recording sessions. . . . But even more than his vivid recreations of Redding's composing and recording work, it's Gould's insightful portrayal of the Segregated South's racial climate that makes Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life so compelling.' ? Paste 'An excellent and definitive biography . . . A master storyteller, Gould tackles Redding's life by planting his flag firmly at the crossroads of individual genius and social and cultural context. . . . [His] fabulous portrait . . . provides Redding with the 'Respect? he richly deserves. Highly recommended.' ? Library Journal (starred review) 'A music biography with the depth to do its subject justice. Otis Redding (1941? 1967) ranks high in the pantheon of 1960s musical luminaries, so it's fitting that [Otis Redding] ranks equally high among such work focusing on popular musical artists. . . . Better late than never, the soul master receives his considerable due in this superbly researched and written biography.' ? Kirkus Reviews (starred review) 'Nuanced and wellresearched . . . [Otis Redding] belongs in the hands of anyone who cares about soul music in the sixties.' ? Booklist
ALSO BY JONATHAN GOULD Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America
AT H A N G O U L D
FOR LISA, WITH LOVE Copyright ? 2017 by Jonathan Gould All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. crownpublishing.com Three Rivers Press and the Tugboat design are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC. Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Crown Archetype, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York, in 2017. Library of Congress CataloginginPublication Data Names: Gould, Jonathan, 1951? Title: Otis Redding / Jonathan Gould. Description: First edition. | New York : Crown Archetype,  | Includes bibliographical references. Identifiers: LCCN 2016043388 Subjects: LCSH: Redding, Otis, 1941? 1967. | Soul musicians? United States? Biography. Classification: LCC ML420.R295 G68 2017 | DDC 782.421644092 [B]? dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016043388 ISBN 978- 0- 307- 45395- 2 Ebook ISBN 978- 0- 307- 45396- 9 Printed in the United States of America Book design by Lauren Dong Cover design by Christopher Brand Cover photograph by Tony Frank/Contributor/Sygma Premium/Getty Images 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 First Paperback Edition
CONTENTS MONTEREY 1 GEORGIA ON MY MIND 18 LAURA 33 GALLANTRY'S LAST BOW 42 SONNY 49 GEORGIA TOM 56 SISTER ROSETTA AND THE JUKEBOX KING 64 MACON MUSIC 71 BROWN V. BOARD 80 BROTHER RAY 86 1955 91 SPECIALTY 101 BELLEVUE 109 HILLVIEW SPRINGS 117 TEENAGE PARTY 126 ATLANTIC 135 PHIL 142 OTIS AND PHIL 152 ZELMA 160 LOVE TWIST 169 JOE 180 SATELLITE 189 STAX 197 THESE ARMS OF MINE 207 THAT'S WHAT MY HEART NEEDS 213 THE HOT SUMMER REVUE 224 PAIN IN MY HEART 230 THE APOLLO 239 SECURITY 245
viii C o n t e n t s BERRY, BROWN, AND BURKE 253 ROY STREET 261 SOUL BALLADS 269 I'VE BEEN LOVING YOU TOO LONG 281 OTIS BLUE 291 MY GIRL 303 I CAN'T TURN YOU LOOSE 314 THE SOUL ALBUM 322 THE WHISKY 330 SUMMER 1966 338 OTIS AND PHIL REDUX 344 READY STEADY GO! 354 DICTIONARY OF SOUL 360 THE FILLMORE 370 KING & QUEEN 376 HIT THE ROAD, STAX 387 RESPECT 397 THE LOVE CROWD 405 BUSES TO PLANES 413 WHAT MAKES THESE GUYS SO SPECIAL 420 THE DOCK OF THE BAY 428 DECEMBER 10 433 EPITAPH 442 EPILOGUE 452 Acknowledgments 467 Notes 473 Bibliography 502 Photography Credits 516 Index 517
MONTEREY I was pretty sure that I'd seen God onstage. ? BOB WEIR Lturned ate on the evening of June 18, 1967, as Saturday night to Sunday morning, the San Francisco? based rock group known as the Jefferson Airplane concluded their fortyminute set to rousing applause from the 7,500 fans who filled the fairgrounds arena in the resort town of Monterey, California, on the second night of an event billed as the First International Pop Festival. The Airplane were local heroes to the crowd at Monterey, many of whom lived in the Bay Area and had followed the band's career from its inception in 1965. Along with other whimsically named groups like the Charlatans, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and the Grateful Dead, they had gotten their start in the folk coffeehouses and rock ballrooms of the HaightAshbury, a neighborhood on the eastern edge of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park whose recent emergence as a bohemian enclave had captured the imagination of young people across America. During the first half of 1967, a series of sensationalistic articles had appeared in newspapers and national magazines describing this selfstyled 'psychedelic citystate? and the longhaired, hedonistic 'hippies? who populated it. This rash of publicity had inspired tens of thousands of footloose college students, college dropouts, teenaged runaways, and 'flower children? of all ages to converge on San Francisco in anticipation of an idyllic 'Summer of Love.' The Monterey Pop Festival was timed to coincide with the start of that summer. The idea for the festival had originated a few months before as a gleam in the eye of a neophyte Los Angeles promoter named Alan Pariser, who envisioned it as a poporiented version of the seaside jazz and folk festivals at Newport and Monterey that had served as a fashionable
form of summertime entertainment since the 1950s. After booking the fairgrounds and enlisting a wellconnected Hollywood Brit named Derek Taylor (who had previously worked for the Beatles) as their publicist, Pariser and his partner, a talent agent named Ben Shapiro, approached the Los Angeles folkrock group The Mamas and the Papas with the intent of hiring them as headliners. The group's leader, John Phillips, and their producer, Lou Adler, responded with a vision of their own. They proposed expanding the size and scope of the festival and using it to showcase the explosion of creative energy that had enveloped the world of popular music in the three years since the arrival of the Beatles in America in 1964. They also proposed staging the festival on a nonprofit basis, with the performers donating their services and the proceeds going to charity. When Shapiro balked at this idea, Phillips and Adler bought out his interest and formed a new partnership with Pariser. They then set out to assemble a roster of some thirty acts, enough to fill three nights and two days of music. Toward this end, they established a tonysounding 'board of governors? that included such prominent pop stars as Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Smokey Robinson, and Brian Wilson. Though none of these luminaries actually attended or performed, they gave the festival enough cachet to ensure that most of the artists the promoters contacted accepted their invitation to appear. In the deft hands of Derek Taylor, the advance publicity for the festival also attracted some twelve hundred loosely credentialed representatives of the press, as well as enough agents, managers, and record company executives to lend the proceedings the feeling of an openair music business trade fair. Phillips and Adler recognized that staging the festival on a nonprofit basis was essential to realizing their more parochial goal, which was to celebrate California's sudden ascendancy in the world of popular music, with Los Angeles now recognized as the pop recording center of America and San Francisco as the home of the country's most dynamic underground music scene. (Fully half the acts that performed came from the West Coast, with the balance drawn from points east, including the new pop capital of London.) Yet bridging the gap between the Northern and Southern Californian nodes of musical sensibility was no simple matter,
Monterey 3 for the two factions approached one another with the suspicion of rival tribes, vying over their respective notions of the California Dream. The music business in Los Angeles was just that? a branch of the entertainment industry governed by conventional Hollywood standards of stardom and success. The music scene in San Francisco, by contrast, subscribed to a bohemian ethos whose insularity and selfregard had been supercharged by the grandiosity of the psychedelic drug culture. Bay Area bands that could barely sing or play in tune professed to disdain the 'commercialism? and 'slick professionalism? of their counterparts in L.A. At this point, the music of the HaightAshbury was a hodgepodge of strident folk harmonies, impressionistic lyrics, modal improvisation, and sophomoric electric blues. But the purported affinities of this music with the effects of hallucinogenic drugs had earned it the label acid rock and generated a formidable mystique. By the time of their appearance at Monterey, the Jefferson Airplane had established themselves as the most musically accomplished and commercially successful exponents of the San Francisco Sound. Their second album, Surrealistic Pillow, stood high on the Billboard charts, while their latest single, an anthem of alienation called 'Somebody to Love,' had attained a saturationlevel presence on the airwaves of America's Top 40 radio stations. Onstage and off, the group dressed with a theatrical flair that erased the lines between clothing and costume. All five of the men wore Beatlesque helmets of shoulderlength hair; the one woman, a former fashion model named Grace Slick, had the pale skin, luminous eyes, and flowing kaftan robes of a pagan priestess. Yet, unlike the Beatles and their fellow 'British Invasion? bands, who had institutionalized the 'rock group? as an autonomous musical unit, the members of the Jefferson Airplane did not project an almost familial uniformity of appearance. They looked instead like a patchwork of different types? a Western gunslinger, a Regency dandy, a bespectacled Sioux? drawn from the collective unconscious of a generation of television babies, raised on a diet of halfhour period dramas. In this the members of the band were indistinguishable from the members of their audience. 'At times, our audience was more outrageous than the people onstage,' recalled Paul Kantner, the group's rhythm guitarist.
Though the Jefferson Airplane were hometown heroes to the crowd at Monterey, they were not the headlining act on the second night of the festival. No sooner had they finished their set than the harried stage crew, pressed by a midnight curfew that had already expired, began replacing their banks of amplifiers with the more modest gear of a fourpiece rhythm section called Booker T. and the MGs and a twopiece horn section called the MarKeys. Their presence at Monterey owed to their role as the studio band for Stax Records, a small Memphis label that specialized in a distinctive brand of earthy, gospeltinged rhythm and blues whose roots in the fervent emotionalism of the black church had earned it the label 'soul music.' The most prominent and charismatic artist associated with Stax was the singer Otis Redding, and it was as the prelude and accompaniment to Redding's eagerly anticipated performance that the MGs and the MarKeys now prepared to take the stage. Whereas the members of the Jefferson Airplane blended easily into the crowd of predominantly white, longhaired, flamboyantly dressed young people who filled the fairgrounds arena, the MGs and MarKeys? three of them white, three of them black? could well have arrived there, as one of them later said, 'from another planet.' To a man, their hair was cut short and, in the case of the white musicians, swept back into the sort of sculpted pompadour that was commonly associated in 1967 with television evangelists and country music stars. Even more anomalous was the fact that the six of them were dressed in matching, doublebreasted, limegreen and electric-blue stage suits from Lansky Brothers, a local institution in Memphis whose most famous client, Elvis Presley, could be said to stand for everything in the realm of contemporary American popular music that the West Coast bands were not. From his seat in the VIP section, just behind the photographers? pit that ran in front of the stage, Jerry Wexler awaited the start of Otis Redding's set with mounting trepidation. A vicepresident of Atlantic Records, Wexler was a renowned music executive and producer, best known for his work with Ray Charles and, more recently, Aretha Franklin. He was also a notorious worrier, and he felt a sense of personal responsibility for Redding's presence at Monterey. It was Wexler who had nurtured the relationship between Atlantic and Stax that put the fledgling Memphis
Monterey 5 label on the map, and who had assured Redding's manager, Phil Walden, that the festival would be a prime opportunity for his client to connect with the burgeoning audience for progressive rock. Yet Wexler himself was unnerved by the countercultural pageant he encountered at Monterey. It was not the thick haze of marijuana smoke hovering over the fairgrounds that gave him pause; Wexler had been smoking 'reefer? since his clubhopping days in Harlem in the 1930s. It was rather that much of the music he had heard during the afternoon and evening concerts on Saturday had impressed him as amateurish, bombastic, and banal, and he was now consumed with doubt about how this crowd of wideeyed dilettantes would respond to the raw emotional intensity and highenergy stagecraft of Otis Redding's performance. To make matters worse, a cold drizzle was beginning to fall, and as Booker T. and the MGs launched into their opening number, Wexler's expert ears told him that the group, known for their impeccable timing, was sounding slightly off. When Phil Walden emerged from the backstage area to pay his respects, Wexler told his young prot'g? that he was afraid they had made a mistake. By the time Walden returned backstage, Booker T. and the MGs had overcome the effects of the late hour, the cold night, and whatever nervousness they may have felt at performing in such unfamiliar surroundings and were setting up an enormous groove behind the saxophonist Andrew Love as he scorched through his solo on the MarKeys? showcase 'Philly Dog.' As for Otis Redding, the very real apprehension he felt was imperceptible to all but his closest associates. A tall, thickfeatured, powerfully built man whose imposing physical presence made him seem considerably older than his age of twentyfive, Redding waited in the wings with his usual air of restless energy. Earlier, when Phil Walden asked him what songs he planned to sing, Redding had teasingly pretended that he hadn't given the matter much thought. (In fact, he had determined his set with the band the day before.) His feigned nonchalance was entirely in character, for one of the traits that had distinguished Redding throughout his fiveyear professional career was his seemingly boundless confidence in his ability to win people over. Notwithstanding Jerry Wexler's doubts, Redding had gained a great
deal of experience performing in front of nominally hip white audiences during the year that preceded his appearance at Monterey. In the spring of 1966, he had wowed the Hollywood incrowd with his shows at the Whisky a Go Go, a nightclub on the Sunset Strip. In the fall he had toured in England and France and played a threenight engagement in San Francisco at Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium, the Carnegie Hall of acid rock. (Twentyfive years later, Graham would remember it simply as 'the best gig I ever put on in my entire life.') More recently, in the spring of 1967, Redding had returned to Europe, where he was rapturously received by fans in Britain, France, and Scandinavia, and afforded a royal welcome by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the other members of London's pop aristocracy who had revered him from afar. At the conclusion of 'Philly Dog,' the television host Tommy Smothers came onstage and encouraged the crowd to give a warm welcome to 'Mister Otis Redding.' The MG's initial downbeat was answered by a syncopated fanfare from the horns and a fusillade of accents from the drums as Redding, resplendent in a tealgreen silk suit, strode to the microphone, snatched it off its stand, flashed an enormous smile, and issued what was very likely the first unequivocal command to come from the stage at Monterey since the festival began. 'SHAKE!' he demanded. 'Everybody say it.' And again: 'SHAKE! Let me hear the whole crowd.' Between the honorific tone of Tommy Smothers's introduction and the note of total authority in the singer's voice and the band's accompaniment, for the 7,500 astonished young listeners who leapt to their feet and surged toward the stage, it was as if the grownups had arrived. The five songs Otis Redding performed in his rainand curfewshortened set at Monterey comprised an overview of his brief career. The incendiary opening number, 'Shake,' had been a posthumous hit for Sam Cooke, the gospel singer turned pop star whose supple voice, cleancut good looks, and consistent 'crossover? success (with white and black listeners alike) had made him, along with Ray Charles, a role model for every soul artist of the 1960s. Following Cooke's untimely death in a shooting incident in 1964, Redding had consciously sought to assume his
Monterey 7 mantle by recording his songs and emulating his determination to be his own man in the music business. Otis's second number, 'Respect,' was one of the three hit singles he released in 1965, the year he emerged as a fullfledged R&B recording star. 'Respect? was a prototype of the sort of driving dance tune with a stamping beat and a syncopated chorus of horns that defined the sound of the Stax label, but it had recently gained a new and greater significance as a vehicle for Aretha Franklin, who recorded it as part of her stunning debut on Atlantic Records in the spring of 1967. Franklin turned Redding's song? in which 'respect? served as a euphemism ('give it to me') for sexual attention? into a woman's demand for the real thing, complete with a newly written release in which she literally spelled out the meaning of the word. By the time of Monterey, this feminist reprise of 'Respect? stood at #1 on the Billboard Pop charts. 'This is a song that a girl took away from me,' Otis told the crowd. 'But I'm still going to do it anyway.' 'I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)? was another of Redding's breakthrough hits from 1965, and another hallmark of his style: a slow, imploring ballad in 12/8 time, paced by wistful arpeggios on the guitar and stately crescendos from the horns. 'This is the Love Crowd, right'? Otis asked, alluding to the hippies? atmospheric embrace of love (advertised by a banner reading 'Music, Love, and Flowers? that ran the length of the stage). He then launched into a romantic testimonial of excruciating intensity, addressed to a woman whose 'love is growing cold . . . as our affair grows old.' Phrasing tremulously behind the beat, edging into the song like a man edging into a difficult conversation, Otis couched his appeal in expressions of empathy ('you are tired, and you want to be free') and gratitude ('with you my life has been so wonderful'), before plunging into an adlibbed coda in which he searched and strained for the words that might persuade her to change her mind: pleading ('I'm down on my knees'), protesting ('No! Don't make me stop'), and finally culminating in a thunderous declaration of 'Good God Almighty! I love you.' In the nuanced emotionality of his singing on this song, Otis seemed to be drawing on a different dimension of feeling and experience than that of any other performer who would be heard at Monterey, and it dramatized the tension that lay at the core of his appeal: that a man so physically
imposing and overtly selfpossessed could indeed be so consumed, so utterly undone, by the force of his yearning, his desire, and his need. Finally, with the rain coming down, the crowd in an uproar ('he had the audience spinning like a chicken on a spit,' one reviewer wrote), and the local authorities demanding an immediate end to the evening, Redding concluded his performance with a pair of 'cover? tunes. The first was a frenetic rendition of the Rolling Stones? hit '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,' whose presence in his repertoire reflected a conscious effort to cater to a rock audience? the impulse that brought him to Monterey in the first place. By stripping the song down to its bare essentials of title, hook, and groove (and dispensing with the lyrics? pretensions to social commentary), Redding recast 'Satisfaction? as a swaggering carnal comedy that took his hypersexualized stage presence nearly to the point of selfparody. In addition to earning him an R&B hit in 1966, the song had served as a familiar crowd pleaser on his European tours, where many fans, aware of the usual pattern of white appropriation, mistakenly assumed that the Stones? version must have been a cover of Redding's original. The finale, 'Try a Little Tenderness,' was something else again. The song itself was a Tin Pan Alley standard, written in the early 1930s by a onehanded American pianist named Harry Woods and a pair of English lyricists, Jimmy Campbell and Reg Connelly, and recorded over the years by the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Perry Como. The Depressionera lyric carried an economic subtext with its account of a woman who gets 'weary wearing the same shabby dress.' Redding's version, released as a single in the fall of 1966, was a seamless synthesis of the two strains of sensibility? soft and hard, seductive and aggressive? that ran through the body of his work. Otis retained the ballad tempo of the original in the opening verses, which he sang with an exaggerated tenderness over the bare accompaniment of whole notes on the bass. (For the crowd at Monterey, he adlibbed an appreciative reference to 'that same old miniskirt dress.') The instruments drifted in as the song progressed? a looping sax, a distant trill of organ, a thin spine of drums? until the arrival of a jaunty rhythm guitar caused the meter to shift, the beat to solidify, and the entire arrangement to assume the form of one long musical and emotional crescendo. Marching in place, waving his arms, jerking