Mr. Pitiful

Album: The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads (1964)
Charted: 41

Songfacts®:

  • Songs like "Pain In My Heart" and "That's What My Heart Needs" earned Otis Redding a reputation as a man on the mend. Moohah Williams, a popular disc jockey at the Memphis radio station WDIA, took to calling Redding "Mr. Pitiful" in response. Redding's producer, Steve Cropper, got the idea to build a song around the concept, so they did, with Redding singing in persona as a downcast man constantly nursing a broken heart. In reality, Redding was quite the opposite: married since 1961, he was greatly admired and usually quite cheerful.
  • Belying the lyric, the song is musically upbeat. This contrast sets the song apart from the doleful ballads that earned Redding the "Mr. Pitiful" moniker.
  • Redding recorded this with the house band at his record label, Stax:

    Steve Cropper - guitar
    Booker T. Jones - keyboards
    Donald "Duck" Dunn - bass
    Al Jackson - drums

    These guys were so good, they recorded on their own as Booker T. & the MG's. In 1962, they released "Green Onions," a Top 10 hit in both the US and UK.
  • This was Redding's first single in the UK. It didn't chart there, but helped him develop a following that made him one of the most popular soul musicians in that territory.
  • The Memphis Horns, a collective that played on tracks for Stax artists and for other labels, played on this track. The four members on "Mr. Pitiful" were:

    Floyd Newman - baritone sax
    Charles "Packy" Axton - tenor sax
    Sammy Coleman - trumpet
    Wayne Jackson - trumpet
  • In 1966, Redding released another song winking at his reputation as a broken-hearted balladeer: "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)."
  • Steve Alaimo, Chris Farlowe and The Majestics are some of the acts to cover this song. In 1969, Etta James did it as "Miss Pitiful."

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