Otis Redding died December 10, 1967, when a plane carrying him and his backing band the Bar-Kays crashed into Lake Monona, near Madison, Wisconsin. Only Ben Cauley (trumpet player for the Bar-Kays) survived the crash - Redding's body was found the day after the crash, still strapped into his plane seat.
There's an official monument to the crash in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building, located just a few blocks from the State Capitol at the following address: Monona Terrace, 1 John Nolen Drive, Madison, WI 53.
Otis Redding was born in Dawson, Georgia. At age 15, with his father suffering from tuberculosis and unable to work, Redding dropped out of school to support the family. He worked as a well digger and gas station attendant before being hired by Little Richard's house band, the Upsetters.
He got his break when, as chauffeur and gofer for Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers, he asked the Stax producer and engineer if he could record a song when the Pinetoppers were finished. The result was his first R&B hit, "These Arms of Mine."
He recorded with Stax Records, a Soul label in Memphis that had a string of hits in the late '60s. The house band, known as Booker T. and The MGs, played the instruments on his songs. Other famous Stax artists include Isaac Hayes, Albert King and Wilson Picket. Redding's debut album, Pain in My Heart, was released in early 1964 on Stax's Volt label.
Redding owned a 200+ acre ranch in Georgia called "The Big O Ranch," complete with hogs and cattle. The "Big O" took it's name from Redding's nickname, and was home to Redding's herd of horses, which he told an interviewer in 1967 that he loved as much as music. Redding was also an avid hunter, who liked to hunt on horseback.
Sam Cooke was one of Redding's inspirations. Redding recorded several of Cooke's songs, including "Shake" and "A Change is Gonna Come," and adapted his signature version of "Try A Little Tenderness
" from a version he heard on Sam Cooke at the Copa. Redding listened to the album so often that he literally wore the grooves out, and had to purchase another copy.
Redding was the first soul artist with a large white audience. His success with white audiences was due in part to his willingness to risk performing in venues that had featured few soul artists, such as the Whisky A-Go-Go and the Fillmore West. Redding also toured Europe, performing in London, Paris and Stockholm, at a time when few soul artists toured outside the US. Redding's performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, his last live performance, was a groundbreaking crossover success; he was the best-known soul act featured at the festival.
Redding was so popular in England that he ended Elvis Presley's eight-year reign as "world's best male vocalist" on Melody Maker's annual pop poll in 1967, when readers voted Redding to the position. When Redding arrived in England for a 1967 tour, he was greeted by The Beatles' personal limo.
Redding often said that if he left the US, he'd live in England. He counted among his best friends the Animals' Eric Burdon
Shortly before his death, Redding begun acting as manager and producer for his close friend Arthur Conley, recording Conley on his biggest hit, "Sweet Soul Music."
Pallbearers at Redding's funeral included fellow soul legends Solomon Burke, Don Covay, Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave), Joe Simon, Percy Sledge, Johnnie Taylor, and Joe Tex. James Brown also attended.