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Otis Redding

Hailing from Macon, Georgia, Otis Redding began his singing career when he won fifteen straight Sunday night talent shows in Macon.

He joined Stax in 1962 and made his debut with These Arms Of Mine in the same year. He followed through with a sequence of extraordinarily moving tracks like Pain In My HeartThat’s How Strong My Love Is and I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.

Otis Redding had a less powerful but more expressive voice than Wilson Pickett, and while at home on fast numbers like Mr Pitiful, handled slow songs with complete mastery. Otis was known to cut an entire album in a couple of days, capturing his high voltage energy on the spot.

Against the backdrop of the 60s US civil rights movement Redding became one of black music’s biggest heroes, and in Europe he was regarded as soul’s purest manifestation.

But it wasn’t until his appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 that he began to break through to a pop audience. The same year he displaced Elvis as top male vocalist on the Melody Maker poll and was on his way to establishing himself as the Crown Prince of Soul.

Otis Redding was only 26 when the twin-engined light aircraft in which he was travelling from Cleveland, Ohio, crashed into fog-shrouded Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin on 10 December 1967.

Redding and four members of his backing group, The Bar-Kays, were killed.

His body was found the day after the crash, still strapped into his seat. In a cruel irony, just three days earlier he had recorded what was to be his biggest hit – (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay.

The cause of the crash remains mysterious although there was a storm and sole survivor, musician Ben Cauley, remembered waking up to hear bandmate Phalon Jones exclaim “Oh no!”. Cauley unbuckled his seatbelt, later allowing him to rise to the freezing lake’s surface while Redding and the six others remained strapped in below and perished.

4,500 people attended Redding’s funeral, with a litany of soul stars in attendance, from James Brown to Solomon Burke.