You may have missed it, but today is “Otis Redding Day” in our neighboring state of Wisconsin. Madison, specifically, has the unfortunate designation of being the location where Redding’s plane crashed in the icy waters of Lake Monona on this day 40 years ago. Redding, his manager, the pilot, and all but two members of his backing band Bar-Kays perished in the crash.
Redding’s widow and the sole survivor of the crash, Bar-Kays trumpet player Ben Cauley, were in Madison recently to mark the occasion and to join the mayor and state’s governor in a proper declaration event. It must have been especially difficult for Cauley, who hasn’t visited the town since being pulled from the watery wreckage.
One of the most memorable and moving things I saw at the Rock & Roll Hall was an actual piece of the plane on display. To be that close to the implement that killed a man still accending towards stardom was pretty intense.
Redding was one of those icons that became fabled in my mind because of an early death. Otis shared his martyrdom with Jimi, Janis, and Jim, but he has managed to increase in stature with me while Joplin and Morrisson have taken a diminished role.
Part of that reason is that I hadn’t been oversaturated with Otis Redding material. I mean, everyone’s heard “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay,” but then when you hit the stuff like “Try A Little Tenderness,” “Mr. Pitiful,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “Knock On Wood,” and so many other tracks that never received much mainstream radio play, you really begin to understand the loss that took place on December 10, 1967.