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Saturday, September 9, would have been Otis Redding’s 65th birthday. I can’t say much about the Big O that hasn’t been said already, nor are there really any words to convey what his loss, nearly 40 years ago, has meant--not just to soul and R & B, but to the history of American music. As a small reminder of the man, I found this snippet of Redding performing “Satisfaction” during the famed 1967 “Hit the Road, Stax” tour of Europe. Orignally shot-for television, it was included in the excellent video package Remembering Otis, released on DVD in 2002.
The amazing thing about the clip – aside from Otis’ typically blinding performance--is the audience. While most of the crowd was clearly feeling it, the director chose to focus on a handful of less than enthused audience members. Most of the young ladies who are given screen time seem like they want to respond, but they’re bewildered, paralyzed or unsure how to react to Redding’s furious musical exorcism--something I’m sure they’d never experienced watching Herman's Hermits or Freddie & the Dreamers. But the best part comes at the very end, as Redding builds to a sweaty, fevered climax and the camera slowly pans across the crowd and lands on the face of one completely sullen kid, who looks like he’d rather be anywhere other than watching the greatest soul singer of all-time at the absolute peak of his powers.
Naturally, my reaction to this–having been born far too late to see Otis in the flesh--was anger: "Dude, it’s 1967, you’re watching the Memphis Horns and Booker T. & the MGs back Otis freaking Redding! How about you enjoy yourself, douchebag?” Apologies if my Redding remembrance is less than dignified. Here’s a far more sunny moment from the same show as the crowd mobs the stage while Redding closes with “Try a Little Tenderness.”