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Beat street

This week at Planet M...

Otis Redding:

Pain in My Heart

ATCO, CD, Rs. 525

THIS WEEK we visit the Memphis-based Atlantic/Stax soul sound of the mid-Sixties, one of whose pillars was Otis Redding. Born in Macon, Georgia on September 9, 1941, he had the same early exposure to Southern Baptist gospel music that most black children had, and honed his vocal skills as a member of his church choir. Through school buddy and producer Phil Walden (later head of Capricorn Records) he was inducted into a local band named Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers in 1959. A series of small-label efforts over the next three years resulted in limited success on a local scale. Major early influences were Sam Cooke and Little Richard, with the latter's backing band employing him for a short while.

His big break came in November 1962, when major label Atlantic/Stax released a single, "These Arms of Mine" with "Hey Hey Baby" on the flip side (both tracks feature on the present CD). The first one was a plaintive lovelorn ballad in classic Redding mode, and saw instant chart success. Over the next five years, Redding went on to record an enduring repertoire of soul numbers that came to define the Atlantic/Stax sound. Some of the more famous ones were "My Girl", "Tramp", "Mr. Pitiful", "I Can't Turn You Loose", "Pain in My Heart", "I've Been Loving You Too Long", and "Dock of the Bay". His song "Respect" was a huge hit for Aretha Franklin, with Redding gratefully acknowledging the superiority of her version to his. In turn, his cover version of the Rolling Stones's "Satisfaction" hit the pop and R&B charts in short order. He headed the Stax/Volt overseas tours, and his spirited live performances garnered him a fan following in Europe and the U.K.

White America "discovered" him (along with Jimi Hendrix) at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, and the subsequent Reprise LP (Monterey: Otis Redding/The Jimi Hendrix Experience) flew off the store shelves. Tragically, just as his career was poised for a big take-off, his chartered plane crashed into a lake in Wisconsin on December 10, 1967. His biggest hit, "Dock of the Bay" (co-written with Stax guitarist Steve Cropper, as a thank-you gesture to Monterey and California) was released posthumously, shooting to the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic in early '68. He was inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

The present CD dates back to January 1964, and contains a cross-section of early Otis Redding, including the two tracks of his first big hit single ("These Arms of Mine" and "Hey Hey Baby"). Other prominent hits include "Pain In My Heart", "That's What My Heart Needs" (both made the R&B charts 1963), and "Security" (which was on the pop charts in 1964). Check out his cover versions of the Kingsmen's hit "Louie Louie", Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" and Little Richard's "Lucille".


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