The Day Otis Redding Died: December 10, 1967, Lake Monona, Wis. By Brian D’Ambrosio, Editor
Soul singer Otis Redding had acquired his own plane to make touring less hectic, but the twin-engine Beechcraft H18 would prove his fatal undoing. At around 3:30 p.m. on a foggy Sunday afternoon, December 10, 1967, the plane, which encountered a storm en route from Cleveland to a concert in Madison, plunged into the frigid depths of Lake Monona. Redding, 26, and four members of his Bar-Kays band were killed. The musicians were headed to The Factory nightclub, scheduled to perform at 6:30 p.m.
The crash killed six others, everyone on board except for trumpeter Ben Cauley (bassist James Alexander had luckily avoided the flight altogether). On the cusp of achieving pop superstardom, Redding, best known for his hit, “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay,” recorded just three days earlier and released after his death, was dead. The tune was Otis’ first posthumous release and his biggest-selling single ever, topping both the R&B and pop charts on its way to going gold. Engineers tastefully overdubbed the sound effects, the mournful cries of seagulls, the singer’s lonesome whistling, after Otis’ death.
There’s one noteworthy aspect to Redding’s life not often touched upon: No one has anything bad to say about him. No scandals lurking in the closet, no mouth-dropping incidents of rampant egotism to shatter his wholesome image, no shafting of his sidemen on long road jaunts. Just a monstrously talented soul man who enhanced the lives of everyone associated with him but died much too soon.
Heartbreak never sounded good. Or happened so abruptly.