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YouTube Gold: An Enduring Classic

Otis Redding’s greatest song was recorded just days before his tragic death.

Otis Redding on stage, in a light colored, double breasted suit, mike in right hand, profile, spotlight above
Photo by Sulfiati Magnuson/Getty Images

There are some songs across genres that just really pack a punch. Django Rheinhardt’s version of Night and Day (the electric version as opposed to the various acoustic covers), Crazy by either Patsy Cline or Willie Nelson who wrote it, The Weight by The Band, maybe Choices by George Jones as he understood that decades of substance abuse meant he was going to die soon.

There are others but you get the idea.

There are a lot of them really and a whole lot of them are in soul music. Think Rainy Night in Georgia or Dark End of the Street.

One of the songs of this nature that really brings it home is Otis Redding’s Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.

It’s an emotionally devastating song about a man who seems to have lost everything and has nowhere to go. The whistling at the end, which Redding added as a placeholder because he couldn’t think of another verse, adds to the haunting nature of the song. The crashing waves just add more.

It’s not often that people write about something as depressing as this level of depression and make it so appealing. But the song still sounds incredibly fresh.

For people who were around when Redding was, part of that may be that he recorded his greatest classic three days before he died when his plane went down in Lake Monona, near Madison, Wisconsin. Redding was just 26.

This song was the first song ever to climb to #1 posthumously.