(Zelma Redding receives a gold disc on behalf of her husband for (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’ from Stax boss Jim Stewart in 1968)
How important to his career was his performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967?
That was a great highlight for him. It was very important. I don’t know whether he thought about it before he did it but it was the right move. He knew when he got that call that that was one of the best moves in his career. He was really, really excited about doing the Monterey Pop. He reached a whole other audience when he did that. It changed everything. It was a different audience at Monterey Pop. That was a very positive move for him working with Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and that type of audience. He had never worked for it before. It really helped his career. He pushed it over. And he was so excited about it when he got back home.
Do any of his songs have a special sentimental significance for you?
Yes. ‘These Arms Of Mine’ I truly love because those were the hard, hard days of his career; my life, his life, living together in a two-room apartment and taking somebody else to be star (Johnny Jenkins) and then he (Otis) wound up being a star.
Otis had a big hit with ‘Respect’ – what was his reaction when Aretha Franklin covered it and scored a n even bigger hit?
Oh, he was just so excited about ‘Respect’ and the way that she covered that song. She did a great job with it. I love Otis Redding’s ‘Respect’ but you have to give it to Ms. Franklin, her version of ‘Respect’ was much bigger than Otis Redding’s. So he was excited about that but one of my dreams, which I often think about, was that if Otis had lived they could have done an album together and I know that that would have happened. But he was so happy with the way that she did ‘Respect’. Even at the Monterey Pop (Festival), he said “I’m gonna try to do this song but this little girl just took this song away from me,” which is ‘Respect,’ but she did a great job with that song.
His music has certainly stood the test of time. Why do you think that is?
You know I think it is because of the way that he performed his music and the way that he was able to construct a song – it was like he owned that song and was going to make it so different that you would never forget it. If you ever saw Otis Redding perform in the studio – he could not read music or write it – but he could tell everybody in the studio how he wanted it and he did it by humming and ad-libbing. That’s how it came to work for him. He played guitar a little and could play piano a little but he would always come up with the melody before he would write a song. I guess that’s what made everything so different – and the way that he produced an arrangement. Everything was like a conversation in all his music.
Unlike a lot of R&B performers from that same time he was a successful businessman…
He kept on top of his business very well. My family and I, we’re still in the same place and we work really hard to keep his legacy alive. We respect everything that he did for us and for his fans and that’s what we love about his music and him as a man and him as a father and as a business person. He was all of that.
Going back to that fateful day on December 10th 1967, did Otis have any inkling that something may have been wrong with the plane?
No, no, uh-uh. No way. He had worked in Cleveland (Ohio) and had left home that Friday, went in the studio and then had to work another date. He had to go to Madison (in Wisconsin) to work there. The weather was really bad but Otis was not the kind of person to miss engagements and if he’d have had an inkling or thought that anything was wrong he wouldn’t have got on the plane.
Many people can remember where they were and what they were doing when they first heard the news that he had died.
That’s right. I have met so many people that told me what they were doing. They don’t forget it. It just sticks in their mind. It’s like the day that Otis heard that Sam Cooke got killed. When I looked into his eyes it was just devastating because Sam Cooke was one of his idols. He loved Sam Cooke.
Is there any chance that a film might be made about his life one day?
It’s in the making as we speak. We’re going to get one done. It will make a great film story and it could have been done before but we want to get the right people to do it right. We just want it done right and to show the proper respect for Otis. But it’s going to happen some day.