Leonardo DiCaprio’s dizzying career has made him of the most recognisable faces in Hollywood. The actor has appeared in everything from family sitcoms such as Parenthood to period romances like James Cameron’s Titanic to gritty thrillers such as Blood Diamond. And he shows no signs of slowing down. Back in 2109, for example, he appeared alongside Brad Pitt in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
Beyond his acting work, he was been a vocal supporter of environmental activism, using his platform to address a range of issues concerning the global climate crisis. But behind the public facade, we know very little about DiCaprio. He rarely gives interviews these days, preferring (understandably) to stay away from media attention aside from the odd shared press junket. As a result, he’s become something of an enigma.
But, if there’s one way to get to know someone, it’s by looking at their favourite records. Those who grew up in the age of the iPod will remember that sense of vulnerability that would arise anytime someone took a sweep through your playlists. After all, our music tastes come to define us; from what we wear to the friendships we form.
So, what does Leonardo DiCaprio’s favourite song reveal about him? Well, during one notable interview, DiCaprio admitted that his favourite record of all time was Otis Redding’s ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’. I never would have thought of DiCaprio as a soul guy, but there you go. As someone who came of age in the late ’80s, I’d always assumed he’d have a taste for classic rap. Indeed, he once stated his passion for hip hop outright. “Kendrick Lamar is great, 2 Chainz is great too – don’t forget 2 Chainz,” he said. “By the way, he’s my age – I’m very proud of a guy emerging in the hip hop world at my age.”
“I’ve been a huge fan of hip hop for a long, long time,” he continued. “That and jazz music, the music of the ’40s, and Stevie Wonder.” DiCaprio was lucky enough to appear in Baz Lurhmann’s retelling of The Great Gatsby, which made artful use of modern rap tracks by the likes of Jay Z and Kanye West. “The last two films that I’ve done have been period pieces infused with hip hop,” Leonardo said. “So it’s really cool that these directors take that chance, and I think it really connects with audiences today.”
Arguably, the music of Kendrick Lamar resonated with so many people precisely because it was tied to jazz and soul. On To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick – like De’Angelo before him – took classic tracks from the days of motown, soul and funk and used them as the centrepieces for something stunningly modern. Otis Redding was one of the greatest stars of this fruitful period in the ’60s and ’70s and ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’ was one of his greatest tracks.
The track came about while Redding was on tour with The Bar-Kays in August 1967. At this time, he was staying on a houseboat at Commodore Seaplane slips in Sausalito, California. It was here that he wrote the first verse of ‘Dock On The Bay’. When he was forced to leave and continue the tour, he continued to scribble ideas down on a piece of paper. But his thoughts always returned to that little houseboat in California. In November, he would join producer Steve Cropper in the studio to lay down the rhythm and bass tracks for the song.
Recalling the origins of the song in 1990, Cropper said: “Otis was one of those the kind of guy who had 100 ideas. He had been in San Francisco doing The Fillmore. And the story that I got he was renting a boathouse or stayed at a boathouse or something and that’s where he got the idea of the ships coming in the bay there. And that’s about all he had: ‘I watch the ships come in and I watch them roll away again.’ I just took that… and I finished the lyrics. If you listen to the songs I collaborated with Otis, most of the lyrics are about him. Otis didn’t really write about himself but I did. Songs like ‘Mr. Pitiful,’ ‘Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)’; they were about Otis and 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.”