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(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay by Otis Redding

Album: Dock Of The BayReleased: 1968Charted:
1
3
  • Redding died in a plane crash on December 10, 1967, six weeks before this was released and three days after he recorded it. It was by far his biggest hit and was also the first ever posthumous #1 single in the US. Redding was a rising star moving toward mainstream success at the time of his death. There is a good chance he would have recorded many more hits if he had lived.
  • Stax guitarist Steve Cropper wrote this with Redding. Cropper produced the album when Redding died, including this track with various songs Redding had recorded the last few years. In a 1990 interview on NPR's Fresh Air, Cropper explained: "Otis was one of those kind of guys who had 100 ideas. Anytime he came in to record he always had 10 or 15 different intros or titles, or whatever. He had been at San Francisco playing The Fillmore, and he was staying at a boathouse (in Sausalito, across the bay from San Francisco), which is where he got the idea of the ship coming in. That's about all he had: 'I watch the ships come in and I watch them roll away again.' I took that and finished the lyrics. If you listen to the songs I wrote with Otis, most of the lyrics are about him. He didn't usually write about himself, but I did. 'Mr. Pitiful,' 'Sad Song Fa-Fa,' they were about Otis' life. 'Dock Of The Bay' was exactly that: 'I left my home in Georgia, headed for the Frisco Bay' was all about him going out to San Francisco to perform."
  • When Otis recorded this, he and Cropper didn't have a last verse written, so he whistled it. He planned to return to Memphis and fill in the verse after performing in Madison, Wisconsin, but he died before he had the chance. When Cropper produced the song, he left the whistling in, and it fit the mood of the song perfectly. It is probably the most famous whistling in any song. (Thanks to Nashid at the Stax Museum for his help with this.)
  • Steve Cropper was a big fan of The Association, who had hits in 1966 with "Cherish" and "Along Comes Mary." He wrote the bridge for "Dock Of The Bay" based on their music, which he thought would help give the song a Pop sound. Cropper thought The Association were a great example of an R&B influenced Pop group.
  • Redding was the star recording artist for Stax Records, a Memphis label that made classic Soul music. The death of Redding was a big blow to the label, and while it certainly had an impact on their demise in the '70s, there were other factors as well, including financial mismanagement and a change in musical tastes. In 2001, construction started on a Soul music museum where the studios once stood, and today that museum is thriving. To learn more about the museum and the Stax legacy, check out Stax Today.
  • Beach sound effects (waves, seagulls, etc.), were dubbed in after the recording. If you equate this to putting stickers on a Picasso, there are two very good outtakes of the song available on the Otis Redding collection Remember Me that are free of the overdubs. Stax Records had recently purchased a 4-track recorder, which made it easy to add the extra sounds.
  • Redding recorded this with Booker T. & the MG's, the house band for Stax Records. They played with all the Stax artists, including Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, and Albert King, and had a hit on their own with "Green Onions" in 1962.

    In 1993, the three remaining members of Booker T. & the MG's (Steve Cropper, Donald "Duck" Dunn, and Booker T. Jones), backed Neil Young on his tour. They ended each show with this.
  • Redding died five months before Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot in Memphis, where this was recorded. The mood of peace and harmony evoked in this song gave way to angry racial tensions. Booker T And The MGs contained two whites and two blacks, standing out as an integrated band in a segregated city.
  • Booker T. & the MG's were on tour when they found out about Redding's death. They were in an Indiana airport with their flight delayed because of snow when one of their members called the Stax office and got the horrific news. When they returned to Memphis, Steve Cropper mixed the song for release. He said it was "maybe the toughest thing I've ever done." Redding's body had not even been recovered when Cropper finished the song.
  • Redding started to compose this while he was recovering from surgery removing polyps from his vocal cords. The doctors told him not to sing or talk for six weeks after the operation.
  • Redding wrote this soon after listening to The Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which had just been released. Shortly before he started recording "Dock of the Bay," Redding alluded to it as an extension of the Beatles' music. In 1966 and 1967, Redding performed "A Hard Day's Night" and "Day Tripper" at some of his concerts.
  • This was so unlike any other Otis Redding composition that Stax Records chief Jim Stewart did not want the song released in any form - even after hearing both Redding and Cropper insist that it would be his first #1 single. Stewart relented when he heard the finished master recording put together by Cropper after Redding's death.
  • During the Vietnam War, this was very popular with American troops fighting there. The song portrayed quite the opposite of their reality.
  • The song is featured in the 1987 film Platoon.
  • Music licensing company BMI named this as the sixth-most performed song of the 20th century, with around 6 million performances.
  • Michael Bolton's 1987 version hit #11 in the US, his highest charting song until "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" hit #1 in 1989. Neal Schon of Journey played on Bolton's recording.
  • This won 1968 Grammy Awards for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance, plus Best Rhythm & Blues Song for writers Otis Redding and Steve Cropper.
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Comments: 30

Or Ricky Gervais' suggested remake version: "Sittin' on a cock cuz I'm gay. . . "Cyberpope - Richmond, Canada
In 1988, Paul Rodgers of Bad Company sang Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert, backed by Steve Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn of Booker T. & the MG's -- the band that backed Redding on the original version of the song. Rodgers says that performing that song with Redding's bandmates was a once-in-a-lifetime experience: "'Dock Of The Bay,' it's just a great song -- great song to do, and it was exceptionally great to do with his band. But, of course, there are other (great songs) -- 'Champagne And Wine' is a beautiful song, too."Deethewriter - Saint Petersburg, Russia Federation
Otis is my all-time favorite singer, and this is one of my favorites of his. It's amazing that his last song was his best. Unlike Howard from the UK, I think this is peaceful, not a premonition of his death. However, Zelma's original lyrics to "I've Got Dreams to Remember" are eerily prescient (especially with the reference to an airplane).Will - Rock Hill, Sc
The Sausalito Wooden Boat Tour includes a visit to the actual dock where Otis wrote 'Dock of the Bay' and also to the old tug which contains the actual table, purchased at auction, upon which he wrote the song.

Don't miss the tour next time you are looking for things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area!
Victoria - Sausalito, Ca
All but two members of the group THE BAR-KAYS died with Otis Redding. One survived the crash the other was not on the plane. THE BAR-KAYS recored "SOUL FINGER." Some years later the one who was not on the plane was murdered; the crime was never solved. THE BAR-KAYS were chosen by OTIS REDDING to be his band and to tour with him.Mamie - Cleveland, Oh
Very spooky; this was certainly a premonition of his death.Howard - Wakefield, United Kingdom
I was a little girl when I fist heard this song, and it has stuck with me ever since. It is simply genius.Stephanie - Omaha, Ne
One of my all time favorite songs, how can you not love it?
It's so mellow and just has a laid back vibe that you just don't seem to find in songs these days.
Stephanie - Los Angeles, Ca
Somethings just can't be expressed with words...Linc - Beaumont, Tx
This whistling - though it was not intended to be left in the song, actually conveys so much of the mood and attitude that it is an essential element and immediately translates to something akin with wasting time away absent mindedly. Make me wonder how the song would have turned out if Redding had returned and finished it.Linc - Beaumont, Tx
Absolutely one of the best songs ever written.Eric - Stevenspoint, Wi
Dock Of The Bay got a LOT of play in Vietnam, because it fitted in with the thoughts that the short timers had in their heads as the time for their return home drew near.Cornelius - Matawan, Ny
"I have heard that 'Dock of the Bay' was actually about Monterey, a festival that took place in '67.
- sarah, indianapolis, IN"

He wrote the song AFTER the Monterey Pop Festival at Waldo Pier in Saualito- across the Golden Gate Bridge from 'Frisco. I alwys wondered on which dock of the 'Bay Redding was referring to (Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley Marina, Hunters Point, etc...)
Anthony - Oakland, United States
Otis Redding was just an awesome performer.Its still amazes me to see the power and emotion he put into every single song he did.Look up the history of Stax Records for more info on Redding and other great performers.Mark - Byrdstown, Tn
This song reminds me of so many times in my life when all seemed hopeless. Its yet another example of the apparent futility of the hands we are sometimes dealt.

The song came out, as I was serving on a Destroyer, getting ready to go to war. When I was in Kaoshung, Taiwan, I got a bootlegged copy of the album. Since I have, at the moment, no way to play vinyl, I just need to copy the lyrics, and hope someone will come along and post the key signature.
J.d. - Detroit, Mi
How can you not love this song? You can listen to it the way Dustin from Tampa does, or as a protest song. However, I see it more as a song about weariness, futility--and hope. The persona of the song wanted to get away from something (possibly bigotry) and/or had to start over. A day has passed, he is sitting on the dock of the bay, tired and sad but still hopeful for the next day. Best of all, the instrumentation--and the whistling--fit perfectly with they lyrics. Otis really left us too soon!Musicmama - New York, Ny
Definitely my favorite song. This song always calms you down and put you in a care-free mood.Lindzy - Los Angeles, Ca
I have heard that 'Dock of the Bay' was actually about Monterey, a festival that took place in '67.Sarah - Indianapolis, In
Bob Rivers (bobrivers.com) has a great parody called "Sellin' All My Junk on Ebay."Steven - Sunnyvale, Ca
It has my vote for #1 best soul song.Jon - Oakridge, Or
I was at Ft leonardwood, Missouri when they broke in on the music and announced Otis Redding was dead. I was so into "soul music" and he was one of my favorite singers for a while. still love his music.George - Richmond, Va
This song is so amazing, every aspect of it: the horns in the background, the chiming guitar, the bass, Redding's lyrics, voice, and my favorite part the whistling. They all work to make the song the kind you want to listen to over and over.Sammy - New York, Ny
i was always told this song was about suicide. but now i dunno... love that whistling!Dee - Khancoban, Australia
Earlier, it was stated the 'beach sound effects (waves, seagulls, etc.), were dubbed in after the recording.'

This is because Otis sat in the window to record the vocals on a rainy day and they were added to complete the effect. The 'swooshing' sounds you hear are not waves effects, but the rain coming down outside the studio.
Joel-steven - Anaheim, Ca
This is #28 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.Ross - Independence, Mo
The Doors wrote a tribute song about Otis Redding in 1969 called 'Runnin Blue'. It contained some of the lyrics of 'Dock of the Bay'Xavier - Melbourne, Australia
what a brillaint song this really is.Rhett - Melbourne, Australia
amazing song. thats funny that he didn't haev a verse and they just left the whistling in after he died. i wonder what otis would say about that. seems to me he wouldn't mind.Jessa - Brampton, On, Canada
I have heard that this song is a protest song; that Otis was torn about the war and decided that he would just "sit on the dock."
-Mc, Baltimore, MD
Mac - Batlimore, Md
This is quite possibly the greatest soul song ever written. There's nothing like cracking open a cold one and listening to "Dock of the Bay" while sitting by the ocean.Dustin - Tampa, Fl