Looks like nothin's gonna change; everything still remains the same.
Otis Redding, who wrote those words, would have been 70 years old this month. And though he died in a plane crash more than four decades ago, when Redding was just 26, his music lives and his influence is lasting.
See also: Booker T. Brings His Music Home.
Redding was a gifted musician who could sing anything, from ballads to barnburners, from soul to rock. He could deliver a masterful cover, even when the material had already been recorded brilliantly, evidenced in Redding's version of Sam Cooke's fantastic "Shake," or the old Bing Crosby chestnut "Try a Little Tenderness."
As a writer, Redding had few peers. His final recording, "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay," makes that plain. It's this unusual combination of talents —singer, songwriter, performer, arranger — that has had such a lasting influence on musicians as diverse as Rod Stewart and Prince, the Doors and Kanye West.
His widow, Zelma, recalls her first contact with Redding. He was performing at an amateur singing competition. Otis said, "Hey, baby," from the stage. "I said, 'I'm certainly not your baby, and you don't know me,'" laughs Zelma. "He said something back, and I wasn't about to walk off and not retaliate."
A brief but contentious little back-and-forth ensued. A few weeks later, the two — both still teenagers — ran into each other at the bus stop. Despite their acrimonious beginning, they starting talking. And in a twist out of a romantic comedy, "we started dating and got closer and we just fell in love," Zelma says. It wasn't long before they were married, and soon they had two boys and a girl.
Their daughter, Karla Redding-Andrews, emphasizes that as great an artist as Otis was, to them he was just Daddy. "We didn't quite understand his greatness until we got older," she explains. "Even in elementary school, and middle school, in our hometown, people would tell us, 'Oh, your dad is great,' and we'd be like, 'Well, but he's not Elvis,' you know."
As organizer of, among other things, the Otis Redding Singer/Songwriter camp, it's safe to say Redding-Andrews is now well aware of the scope of her father's artistry. "He set his dreams and goals very early in life and amazingly," she's said, "he achieved most of them in such a short period of time."
While artists such as the Grateful Dead and Willie Nelson have often paid tribute to Redding, nowhere is his legacy more clear than in his family. His sons, Dexter and Otis III, perform as the Reddings. And Zelma and Karla work with the Big "O" Youth Educational Dream Foundation. The foundation's mission: empower and enlighten youth to remain confident and motivated through music- and art-related programs.
It's not a new idea for the Redding family. Even during the height of his career, Otis Redding was dedicated to helping others, encouraging kids to stay in school, and developing programs to be held at the Redding family ranch. Reflecting on her late husband's legacy, Zelma says, "He was always willing to help you any way he could — he was very giving, he was a very giving person." It's that spirit that is behind the recent celebration "An Evening of Respect," a biennial tribute to Otis Redding's life and music that benefits the foundation.
Otis Redding himself seemed to have been — aside from his children — pretty much the only one unaware of the magnitude of his artistry. Otis, says Zelma, "never considered himself a great singer. He always said, 'I'm just trying to make a dollar.'"