Moment in time: Dec. 10, 1967, Otis Redding dies in a plane crash — There was light fog and drizzle that afternoon when the pilot of “King of Soul” Otis Redding’s twin-engine Beechcraft attempted an instruments-only landing in Madison, Wis. Redding, 26, was headed for superstardom: Four years into his career, with 13 albums already, he had broken through to a wider (which is to say white) audience with an electrifying set at that summer’s Monterey Pop Festival. Throat surgery for polyps had laid him low after Monterey, but three days before the flight he and his band the Bar-Kays recorded the slow-rolling number (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay. They were due to play it at the Factory club, preceded by warm-up act the Grim Reapers. A month after the plane plunged into Lake Monona, the song became the first posthumously released No. 1 single on the Billboard charts. — Simon Houpt
Did you know: In the winter of 1967, Redding again recorded at Stax. One new song was “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”, which was written with Steve Cropper while they were staying with their friend, Earl “Speedo” Sims, on a houseboat in Sausalito. Redding was inspired by the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and tried to create a similar sound against the label’s wishes. His wife Zelma disliked its atypical melody. The Stax crew were also dissatisfied with the new sound; studio chief Jim Stewart thought that it was not R&B, while bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn feared it would damage Stax’s reputation. However, Redding wanted to expand his musical style and thought it was his best song and correctly believed it would top the charts. Redding whistled at the end, either forgetting Cropper’s “fadeout rap”, or paraphrasing it intentionally.