Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life

Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life by Jonathan Gould

My Review:

This book doesn’t just encompass Otis Redding’s story, but also scads of information about his time. It’s a history of African American families and covers the racial tensions, struggles, and social challenges he and his family endured throughout their lives. The author also touches on other artists including Ray Charles, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, and Johnny Jenkins. Otis_Redding_1967.jpg

Those who aren’t sure who Otis Redding is might remember him by some of his most popular songs like: “(Sitting on) the Dock of the Bay”, “Try a Little Tenderness”, and “Respect” (sang by Aretha Franklin). He was a singer, songwriter, and producer. His story reminds us how powerful and influential music was during the civil rights movement.

Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch ’em roll away again, yeah

I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

He had an astounding career before his life was cut short similar to some other great singers of that time, including Sam Cooke. It’s heartbreaking to think what his family experienced when he died.

This book is impressive, jam-packed with information, and includes many photos. I recommend it to Otis Redding fans, and anyone who wants to learn more about him.




CNW92F.jpgOtis 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.Otis-Redding_Raw.jpg

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.

One of my favorite movies Pretty in Pink  featuring Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness”

About the author


Jonathan Gould is a former professional musician and the author of CAN’T BUY ME LOVE: The Beatles, Britain & America. He divides his time between a home in Brooklyn and a house near Hudson, NY.

More books by this author:


“It is the sound of the crowd that can be heard in the second, crescendoing rush of the orchestra that follows the final verse, rising from a hum to a gasp to a shout… fusing at last to a shriek (its similarity to the sound of the crowds at Beatle concerts is surely no accident). The onrushing sound of the orchestra at the end of “A Day in the Life” has transcended more than the conventions of Sgt. Pepper’s Band. It is the nightmare resolution of the Beatles’ show within a show. It is the sound in the eras of the high-wire artist as the ground rushes up from below. There is a blinding flash of silence, then the stunning impact of a tremendous E major piano chord that hangs in the air for a small eternity, slowly fading away, a forty-second meditation on finality that leaves each member if the audience listening with a new kind of attention and awareness to the sound of nothing at all.”
Jonathan Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America

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