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Giving Otis His Propers


Coming off of the biggest chart success of his career to date, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,“ Otis Redding reeled off two 1965 singles which included songs destined to become iconic tunes, not for Otis, but for the acts which covered them later.

Aretha Franklin would make “Respect” the driving theme of working-on-being-liberated women seeking recognition for how unbalanced their contribution was to the male-female equation. But two years before she took it to the top, Otis made it a hit. Redding wrote the song, but not for himself. Speedo Sims had first shot at recording it with his band the Speed Demons, and took a crack at it in Muscle Shoals, but with no success. Otis decided to cut a version, and his single crossed over to number 35 on Billboard.

Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler, one of the greatest fans of Memphis music ever, introduced the song to Aretha Franklin. A few important ingredients were added to the original Redding interpretation. One was the King Curtis sax solo. Another was the bridge that spelled it out for the world:


Find out what it means to me.


Take care TCB.

Though forever branded with Detroit and its music scene, Aretha was born in Memphis. Of course another Memphian, Elvis Presley, would take TCB, taking care of business, to a new level. Aretha struck a nerve with her interpretation, and “Respect” was her first number one record. It was around that time in June, 1967, that Otis performed the song at the Monterey Pop Festival.

Another Otis Redding track would hide on the B-side of his next single until a group of comedians chose it to showcase their foray into blues and R&B musical revival. Without “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” how would the Blues Brothers ever have been able to make their grand entrance? They opened and closed their live album Briefcase Full Of Blues with the revived the theme of the song Otis Redding released as the B-side of “Just One More Day,” 13 years after its original release in 1965. And if you took the basic progression of “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” and replaced the horns with Booker T. Jones on organ, you would wind up with something curiously similar to 1969‘s “Time Is Tight,” the second-most successful single for Booker T and the MG’s.

Another cover of note would be of a song Otis recorded in 1967, and not released until after Redding’s death. “Hard To Handle” was a track on the album The Immortal Otis Redding, and as a single made it to number 51 on Billboard. The song was a feature in sets by the Grateful Dead and was performed by Mae West in the movie Myra Breckinridge. 23 Years after Redding recorded it, “Hard To Handle” became a signature song for the Black Crowes. Charting at number 26 in 1990, it was another belated show of R-E-S-P-E-C-T for Otis.

My heroes have always been disc jockeys. I especially admired the ones who could take the canvas of the fourteen-second intro of a teeny-bopper song and paint a masterpiece. From my youth, I strove to emulate them. I had the good fortune to walk in some of their footsteps, albeit a respectful pace behind.