I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
watchin' the tide roll away...
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"The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding is perhaps one of the greatest pop songs ever written. It’s simple and full of emotion. Both the melody and the way Otis sings the phrasing make the listener feel exactly what he’s feeling: tired, peaceful, and a bit of loneliness. Adding to the tune’s melancholy is the fact that a mere ten days after the unfinished song was recorded, Redding and four of his bandmates died in a horrific plane crash over Wisconsin. The whistling in the last verse was originally meant to be a placeholder. Redding intended to re-record the song, adding additional lyrics to the final verse. He never got that chance.
In the summer of 1967, Redding was laying out on a houseboat at Waldo Point in Sausalito, California, when he first began penning the lyrics to "Dock of the Bay." Months earlier, he’d just performed at the Monterey Pop Festival and his fame was increasing exponentially at that time. The first line he wrote down was, “Watching the ships come in and then I watch ‘em roll away again,” after being inspired by the sights and sounds of the San Francisco Bay. The song became the first posthumous single to top the charts in the United States.
Sausalito is an eight-mile stretch in Marin County, off the coast of the San Francisco Bay, near the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. It served as a shipbuilding center in World War II, but has since grown into a reputation of art and music. The name, while sounding like a food you’d eat for breakfast with eggs, actually means "willow grove" in Spanish – no groves will be found though. The city was developed on top of the water as a landfill project. Over 20 percent of the city remains under water as it has since 1868 when the town was founded.
Shore in Sausalito
Perhaps it is due to the abundance of water that has led to the predominant usage of houseboats. The community of Sausalito boasts more than 400 houseboats ranging in shape, size, and cost. People re-use abandoned boats and materials, thereby building a tradition that stretches back over 50 years. Redding stayed on houseboats whenever he came to play in the San Francisco area and it was the unique community and use of the bay that prompted him to write his biggest hit.
Also known as the King of Soul, Redding is considered one of the greatest singers in pop music, in spite of the fact that his career and life were cut so short. As such an avid fan of music in general, it always saddens me when an artist goes before their time. I feel a sense of loss when I think of all the music that could’ve been, but will never be. Whenever I get in this mood, I play "Dock of the Bay" and know that Otis felt similar at one point and maybe, just maybe, he’s looking down and smiling at the millions of people who love his final contribution to the world.
~ Justin Novelli
(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay Songfacts
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