Saturday, December 01, 2018

In Commemoration Of The 50th Anniversary Of The Passing Of Legendary Soul Singer Otis Redding (2017)

In Commemoration Of The 50th Anniversary Of The Passing Of Legendary Soul Singer Otis Redding (2017)

By Zack James (with serious help from oldest brother Alex)

I have been this year, the year of the 50th anniversary of the famous Summer Of Love, centered mainly in and around San Francisco, probably the number one writer in this space commemorating that event. Prodded unto perdition by my oldest brother Alex who had actually taken part in many aspects of the Summer of Love, 1967 and a couple of years beyond before he settled down to his quiet and lucrative law practice. Quickly the genesis of that prodding and the subsequent over-the-top commemoration of that event was Alex’s business trip out to San Francisco in the spring combined with his viewing of a special exhibition The Summer of Love Experience put on by the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park the scene of much of the activity during that time. When Alex got back he gathered his old high school friends together who had also gone out that year and they commissioned me to write, edit and see to the publication of a small collective memoir book on their experiences.

One of those high school friends was the site administrator here, the soon to be retired Pete Markin, who beyond contributing to the memoir went crazy to have his stable of writers, including me, young and old, acquainted with that time or not, to go all out to commemorate the event. That whirling dervish fury is the main reason that Pete lost a vote of confidence initiated by the so-called “Young Turks” (although all of us are thinking 50 something) and supported decisively by his old friend and colleague old-timer Sam Lowell which has ushered in his retirement and replacement by Greg Green from the on-line American Film Gazette website. (The details of that internal fight will be addressed by others in the future since I was not privy to most of what happened to give Peter the boot. And also not privy to whether the whole affair was not some purge like in the old radical days disguised as a retirement. If Peter goes to the Gulag we will know which one it was) But enough of genesis.         

One of the assignments that Pete in his frenzy ordered up was a review by film critic Sandy Salmon of a documentary by the famed filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker about the first Monterey Pops Festival in June of that same Summer of Love year. That review centered on the explosive appearance of Little Girl Blues Janis Joplin at the Festival. That subsequently led to a review by younger writer Alden Riley ordered by Peter over Sandy’s head when he found out that Alden did not know who Janis Joplin was. All well and good as Ms. Joplin deserved plenty of attention for her short burning star rise and fall too young. What got short shrift in all of this worthy commemoration was the equally explosive entrance of king the essence of soul Otis Redding on that same Monterey stage. Maybe it was that Otis’ music did not fit in with the “acid” rock very much associated with that Summer of Love stuff. Maybe it had something to do with a “white bread” lack of appreciation for the emergence of soul. Maybe a Martin Luther King passive resistance generational “post-racial” break from a serious understanding of the continuing racial sores that mark this country’s landscape.  Maybe it was combination.

Nevertheless not only was Otis Redding worthy of a better representation on this site but in his short, too short, appearance on the wider music stage he had an outsized influence on the subsequent evolution of soulful music. His most famous song, the lonesome hobo Sitting on the Dock of the Bay an instant classic released shortly before his death in a plane crash in the Midwest in late 1967 showed a glimmer of where he was going.

In this 50th anniversary year for the song and Otis’ death the well-known NPR commentator Christopher Lydon on his Open Source radio show featured the life, work and influence of the great recording artist on one program. Maybe a link here to that program makes up one tiny bit for the previous neglect on this site.

Click here to link to the Open Source program:

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