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Otis!: The Otis Redding Story Hardcover – December 11, 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Before his death in 1967 at the age of 26, the legendary soul singer Otis Redding was the premier act of the Stax-Volt record company, whose recordings by Booker T. & the MG's and Sam & Dave, among others, offered a Southern-based brew of R&B, funk and blues that was Motown Records' main competitor in the mid- to late-1960s. Freeman, whose excellent Midnight Riders explored the Allman Brothers' revolutionary Southern rock, has produced another well-written, expertly researched and culturally sensitive chapter in the history of Southern popular music, as well as the first truly in-depth view of the man whose powerful stage presence and commanding vocals made him the first soul artist to cross over to a predominantly white, rock-oriented audience. Redding's music is given its proper context in the black community of Macon, Ga. which also produced Little Richard and James Brown and in the managing career of Phil Walden, a young white soul fan who managed and directed Redding's career and began a Macon-based musical empire that, unlike most Southern labels, achieved success based on a true unity of black and white musicians . But Freeman is no hagiographer: he makes it clear that both Redding and Walden were tough characters with their eyes on the money, too. This nuanced account of Redding's celebrated career, which ended only three days after he recorded the song "The Dock of the Bay," proves that he deserves his place in the pantheon of great American singers. Eight pages of photos not seen by PW. (Dec.) Forecast: With a national radio campaign and supported by the enduring popularity of Redding's music, this should be a success with audiences interested in classic American roots music.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

"He knew this was the record that was going to open a door long nailed shut; he just never got to step inside." That is how Freeman describes "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay," Redding's first No. 1 hit on both the R&B and pop charts in 1968. The song was another confirmation of Redding's skill as well as his break into the white artist-dominated mainstream. Sadly, he died in a plane crash days after recording it in 1967. As editor of Atlanta magazine and author of the critically acclaimed Midnight Riders: The Story of the Allman Brothers Band (Scott Freeman, 1995) Freeman, as only a Georgia native can, forthrightly portrays his subject's life from his meager, sometimes criminal, beginnings as a Little Richard wannabe in Macon, GA, to his rise to King of Soul with his fiery sessions for Stax Records and legendary performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival. With industrious research and countless interviews with Georgia musicians and locals, Otis! not only chronicles Redding's story but also explains how Motown rival Stax crafted its country-soul sound with a roster that included Booker T. and the MG's and James Brown. Jane Schiesel's The Otis Redding Story (1973) has long been out of print, so this update is welcome. For all public libraries. Eric Hahn, Fargo, ND
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (December 11, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312262175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312262174
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,378,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm giving this a five because there don't seem to be too many other books about Otis out there and this is a pretty good read.

The writer gives his take on Otis' life coming from Macon Georgia, the same town where Little Richard and James Brown were born.

Like Carla Thomas says in 'Tramp!', 'You from the Georgia woods!'

Otis grew up on the streets. His father was preacher, had been a sharecropper. They lived in tough neighbourhoods until Otis got money.

According to Freeman Otis was pretty much a saint except about money, where he could be mean.

Most, or a lot of Freeman's information seems to come from the people Otis grew up with and played with, all of whom had a very high regard for him as a person as well as a musician, although a number of them flagged up his ability to be tough on the street, and hardnosed attitude to business.

However it seems like he always loved to be around his family and friends from home, although towards the end his life got very hectic.

There's a lot of speculation about where Otis' life was going around the time he was killed. There's a lot of stuff about the high regard he was held in by many other musicians including the Beatles, Dylan and most of all Janis. Well, why wouldn't they?

Highlights for me include Freeman's willingness to take a sidetrack here and there to explore the lives of players in Otis' life, especially Johnny Jenkins. Another key character would be Steve Cropper, seemingly the guy that held Stax together for many years at least in terms of personalities and the music. No surprise there.
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Format: Paperback
Don't get me wrong, it's a good biography of Otis, but it lacks a certain depth. It is somewhat one-sided and could have done with a lot more research and more interviews. As previous reviewers have already mentioned, would have been nice to hear from more people.

What is also completely lacking is the role that Otis played in American music, american history and what he meant for the black population. There are some hints towards it, but it is never fully explored. It could have been about any artist, there is no real sense that Otis was one of the most gifted and most important soul stars.

In that sense it's a little dissappointing, but to get a good overview of his life, the album is worth giving a look.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Short, but great information and stories. Tear inducing due to the tragic and conspiratorial circumstances of his death. Hard to read this and not believe someone had a hand in his death much like Sam Cooke and countless others. Would definitely recommend to Otis fans. You can easily read this book in an afternoon or two.
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Format: Hardcover
Everything I have ever read about Otis Redding portrays him as perfect. He was a great singer, a great performer, and everybody loved him. Scott Freeman does a good job of showing a more complete Otis Redding. Sometimes Otis is surprising. He once got in complete a gun fight! The best part of the book is the research Scott Freeman did into the music scene that Otis lived in. Freeman played guitar in an R & B band in Macon, Georgia in the 1980's while writing for the Macon Telegraph and News. Many of the old musicians were still active and would sit in with the band. Freeman interviewed many of the old timers for this book, and their memories fill in the details of those times. This is a valuable book for Otis Redding fans!
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Format: Hardcover
I have enjoyed Otis Redding's music for a long time, but I never realized how little I actually knew about him. Everything I have ever read about Otis Redding portrays him as close to perfect. He was a great singer, a great performer, and everybody loved him. That's nice, but what was he really like? Scott Freeman does a good job of showing a more complete and therefore more human Otis Redding. There are some definite surprises. Did you know that Otis once got in a gun fight? Scott Freeman did some nice research into the musical world that Otis lived in. He started this research almost by accident. Freeman played guitar in an R & B band in Macon, Georgia in the 1980's while writing for the Macon Telegraph and News. Many of the old musicians from Otis' times were still active and would sit in with the band. They were still playing great, and Freeman got interested in them. He wound up interviewing many of the old timers for this book, and their memories fill in the details of those times. This is a valuable book for Otis Redding fans!
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Format: Paperback
I thought this was a great read, and I don't think there is much else to know about Otis Redding and I learned a lot about him and the legacy of his music. I never quite realized just what an impact and how popular he was until reading this book. He certainly left us too soon. No telling how far his career may have gone.

I was curious to have more funeral details however. But usually most biographies go right over the death and funerals of the ones being written about for some reason. Certainly not for lack of information because most celebrity funerals are well covered in the press. Maybe they think the readers wouldn't care to know. But I think we do. I was curious to know the cause of Otis's death. I know it was in a plane crash, but if you've ever seen photos, when he was taken from the water he looks perfect, even had an open casket, so it makes me curious. Drowning perhaps?

I've read and have the author's book on the Allman Bros. and liked that very much too, so figured this would likewise be a good one. It was.
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