In recent years Shout Factory! has become one of the premier reissue labels, giving a second chance to everything from ’80s kids shows to classic rock and soul. On July 23 Shout Factory will release the splendid new box set Otis Redding: The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Collection. A full review of the set by my colleague Dw. Dunphy will be appearing on Popdose soon. Today I would like to focus on just one of the 70 songs in the collection.
“That’s How Strong My Love Is” might have been a B-side, but it is one of the best B-sides ever released. The A-Side of the record was Redding’s classic “Mr. Pitiful,” which was released by Volt Records in December, 1964. “Mr. Pitiful” reached #10 on the R&B chart and very nearly reached the Top 40 on the pop chart. The flip side was a hit in its own right, making it to #18 on the R&B chart. Both songs were included on the classic 1965 album The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads.
“That’s How Strong My Love Is” was written by Roosevelt Jamison and first recorded in 1964 by O.V. Wright for the Goldwax label. Although Wright became well known for the recording, it wasn’t a hit for him at the time. But when Redding’s version was released a short time later it moved up the charts. The following year there were three more cover versions of the song by the Rolling Stones, the Hollies, and the In Crowd. Since that time there have been numerous covers including efforts by the Sweet Inspirations (1968), Candi Staton (1970), Humble Pie (1973), Bryan Ferry (1978), Taj Mahal (1993), and Buddy Miller (1997).
Otis Redding went on to have a legendary career. His hits included “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “Respect,” and “I Can’t Turn You Loose” in 1965, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)” in 1966, and “Try A Little Tenderness” and “Shake” in 1967. There were also the duet hits with Carla Thomas, “Tramp” and “Knock On Wood,” both released in 1967.
Sadly, Otis Redding’s biggest hit was a posthumous one. In 1967 Redding had a breakthrough performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, crossing over to the mostly white audience and seemingly guaranteeing a massive career. It wasn’t to be though. A few months later Redding and his road band, The Bar-kays, were flying from Cleveland to a gig in Madison, WI. The plane took off in bad weather and got to within four miles of Truax Field in Madison before crashing in Lake Monona. Ben Cauley of the Bar-Kays was the only survivor. The cause of the crash has never been determined.
A month later, in January, 1968, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” was released by Volt. It was not only Redding’s only #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, it was the first posthumous #1 single in the history of the US charts. The single sold four million copies worldwide.
Otis Redding was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. He is also a member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1993 the United States Post Office issued a commemorative stamp in his name, and six years later he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
No discussion of the classic soul artists of the ’60s, or of any time for that matter, is complete without the inclusion of Otis Redding.