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Otis Redding: Soul Ambassador

Otis Redding: Soul Ambassador

Fri May 31, 9-10pm, BBC4

By Gabriel Tate
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Otis Redding’s career is one of the great what-might-have-beens of music history. He was already a gifted soul shouter, vulnerable crooner and truly charismatic stage performer when he recorded the contemplative, melancholy and, in retrospect, tantalising ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay’ in 1967. Three days later, he died in a plane crash at just 26.

The rollcall of famous fans paying tribute in this richly enjoyable profile includes Elton, Rod and Sir Tom (who inevitably crowbars in a compliment from Otis). The real insights, however, come from the backroom boys at record label Stax: the likes of Al Bell, Booker T and Steve Cropper, who joined Redding on the 1967 revue tour of Europe that turned him into a superstar and Stax, hitherto an oasis of racial integration and tolerance, in on itself in a frenzy of jealousy and ballooning egos.

His wife and daughter speak of him fondly too, although the suspicion lingers that Otis was less than a saint off-stage. But who wouldn’t fall for such an electrifying performer? The generous archive is, as so often, the main reason to tune in tonight.
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