Otis Redding was undoubtedly one of the most promising soul stars in the world when he tragically died in a plane crash on December 10th 1967. The singer had captured a nation with his imperious vocal and unstoppable personality, connecting with the content and his audience in equal measure. There’s no doubt that before darkness landed, Redding’s future was incredibly bright. Below, we’re revisiting his final performance, singing ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ the day before the accident.
The performance wouldn’t be on the grandest stage but another promotional slot as Redding continued to drum up support for his pioneering soul sound. Redding was quickly becoming a major face around the music scene and his inclusion in shows like this was proof of his growing esteem. Redding gave his final performance ever at a local Cleveland news show hours before his untimely death.
There weren’t many stars as well-loved as Redding when, in 1967, the singer appeared on ‘Upbeat,’ a musical variety show which had gained some serious popularity in the local area. He takes to the makeshift stage to deliver a simply captivating performance of ‘Try A Little Tenderness’, the song which is perhaps one of Redding’s most widely adored. It’s a performance which showcases exactly why the loss of Redding was so great.
Born in Georgia, Redding soon gravitated towards the sounds of Little Richard and Sam Cooke, enthralled by their performances, he soon began singing himself. Joining the Upsetters in the late fifties, Little Richard’s former backing band, Redding soon gained notoriety for his own work, letting his sensational vocal performances do all the talking for him.
He was eventually discovered when working as a back-up singer. Entering the booth after a session, Redding was alleged to have been demanding he cut his own track after joining Johnny Jenkins’ band in the studio. He was signed almost instantly and started a fruitful partnership with Stax Records. In five years of his career-proper, Redding produced five stunning albums and has since defined the phrase “gone too soon” and, at just 26, left a world reeling with the idea of ‘what if’.
There aren’t many songs that slap like Otis Redding’s ‘Try A Little Tenderness’. We’d bet that no matter the party and no matter the age of those who were in attendance if you stick on this song it will guarantee a reaction. Usually, it’s the recognition of a truly well-crafted and expertly performed piece of pop but, sometimes, it is a full-body shakedown. It doesn’t get better than this song, which as well as being soulful, charming and everything else associated with Redding, has an unequivocal ubiquitous appeal.
Of course, there’s another famous song of Redding’s, ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay’, which will forever be wrapped in his tragedy. The beginning of the song was laid down on the weekend of his untimely death, with the singer never seeing the completion of his landmark song nor its subsequent rise to the top of the charts. However, if there’s a way to remember the spirit of Otis Redding, it has to be with his final performance of ‘Try A Little Tenderness’.