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Celebrating 70 Years Otis Redding
September 9, 1941-December 10, 1967

by Chris Horne

The whole world celebrates Otis Redding an unimaginable number of times every day, every time one of his songs is played. But with what would have been his 70th birthday, Redding's family and friends have put together a weekend-long celebration in Macon to honor The Big O. It is a coordinated effort that includes sponsors from home and around the globe and takes place in Macon September 9-10.

In 2009, the family hosted "An Evening of Respect" in Atlanta, drawing thousands of fans, but chose to bring the celebration back to "Otis' beloved Macon." The fun kicks off with an official ceremony in Third Street Park by the city of Macon and Bibb County announcing that September 9--his birthday--will forever be "Otis Redding Day" in his hometown.

On Saturday, September 10, a star-studded lineup--headlined by his sons Dexter and Otis Redding, III--will pay tribute to the life and legacy of Otis Redding, while also honoring the Atlantic/Stax Family who "continue to work and maintain the legacy of the 'King of Soul.'" The event features Jimmy Hall, international recording vocalist Brenda Vaughn, electric violinist Ken Ford, Timothy Bloom and V. Bozeman, guitarist Steve Cropper among many others, serving as a fundraiser for the Big O Foundation, which pursues Otis Redding’s dream of providing music education for young people.

"His music is so pure, so genuine, so good, so organic," says Otis Redding, III, who has traveled the globe playing shows and paying tribute to his famed father. "The music back then was just so different. You didn't have to wonder what the music was all about. If it was a love song, it was about love. They didn't try to make you guess."

Two of today's biggest stars, rappers Jay-Z and Kanye West, have teamed up for a special tribute to the King of Soul with the lead sing from their upcoming album, "Watch the Throne." Aptly titled, "Otis," the song is almost entirely a sample of the Big O's biggest hits, "Try a Little Tenderness."

"I'm glad they're doing it," his son said, "They're turning a new generation of people on to Otis Redding, people who didn't know his music already."

Redding's music is so timeless that it's hard to believe so much time has passed.

Fifty something years ago, his golden voice poured out from the stage of the Douglass Theatre, back when his vocals were a still evolving concoction of his musical idols Little Richard and Sam Cooke--themselves sonically almost polar opposites--to take the crown at so many of pioneering DJ Hamp Swain's talent shows that he had to be told to stop competing.

There, he met his wife, Zelma. Here, he met a left-handed genius of the guitar, Johnny Jenkins, and joined his band, the Pinetoppers, riding with them to Memphis for a recording session at Stax Records that would change his life. Here, he joined up with Phil Walden and his family, unwittingly starting a music empire in the heart of Georgia that would send out echoing shockwaves for decades.

On a bleak day in December 1967, a massive crowd--many notable musicians and star among that number--mourned the tragic passing of a true music giant, and for many, a friend at the historic City Auditorium, the same location of the tribute concert "An Evening of Respect".

Though Redding's work is recognized and beloved all over--and this celebration would be embraced in nearly any country on the planet--the family is keeping the event where it all started: Macon, Georgia. It is, in many ways, as if his infectious style still radiates from within this sometimes sleepy town, still spreading around the world.

Music writer and former Maconite Stanley Booth, who was present when Otis Redding and guitarist Steve Cropper wrote "(Sittin on the) Dock of the Bay," once said, "Otis was young, strong, and healthy. It made you feel good to be around him. Listen to the records – they contain his spirit."

As the Big O himself once sang, "A-men."

Tickets for "An Evening of Respect" are on sale online at thegrandmacon.com, by phone at (478)301-5470.

© Copyright 2011 by The Informer, Inc.
P.O. Box 564, Macon, • GA 31201 * Ofc:  478-745-7265   *  Email: gainformer@yahoo.com

otis redding

Otis Redding