Otis Redding was considered one of the most prolific singers of his time. Although he was only active for a relatively short amount of time, from 1958 up until his death in 1967 as the result of a plane crash, he sang songs that still have a dramatic impact on the way other artists perform, even today. He may not have had a long career, but he certainly did have a very successful one and more importantly, one that continues to influence new and seasoned artists alike.
Below are ten of his best songs, ranked from number 10 to number one. All of them have YouTube links to accompany them so you can click on the link and listen to each song for yourself. If you haven’t yet become familiar with his music, you’d be doing yourself a huge favor to spend a little time listening to some of these songs.
10. Cigarettes and Coffee (1966)
This is probably one of the happiest love songs anyone ever recorded. It talks about finding that special someone and being happy to simply spend time with them. In this particular case, the two are spending time sitting together and talking over cigarettes and coffee, as you might have already guessed from the title.
9. My Girl (1965)
This is the song that has been immortalized in popular culture for the last several decades. It talks about being able to see the sunshine, even when the day is cloudy. The reason that the individual in the song is so happy is because he has found that special someone. There is scarcely a person alive who has been fortunate enough to find a person like that who can’t identify with these types of lyrics, hence the reason that the song has remained at the height of popularity for years and years.
8. These Arms of Mine (1964)
This is a song about unrequited love. It talks about wanting to be able to wrap one’s arms around someone specific, yet not being able to do that because the relationship has essentially fallen apart. Performed in true Otis Redding fashion, it’s a song that can absolutely rip your heart out, stomp all over it and then leave you to sit alone with your thoughts.
7. Try a Little Tenderness (1967)
As the title of this song implies, it is one about treating someone properly in a relationship. Told from the perspective of a man talking to other men, the song talks about treating women with kindness and tenderness as opposed to using brute force in order to get whatever one wants. Considering the fact that the song was recorded in the late 1960s, it definitely went against the typical outlook of the time, as women were often expected to simply be an appendage of the man they were with. This song reminded people that a woman was no less valuable than a man, that she is instead someone with her own thoughts, feelings and goals who wants to be recognized as such.
6. That’s How Strong My Love Is (1964)
This is a beautiful song that utilizes a great deal of metaphor in order to get its point across, talking about going to any lengths necessary to prove to someone else how much the person in the song loves them. The song talks about going as far as the moon and the sun in order to prove this fact, a beautiful sentiment that is absolutely timeless.
5. I Can’t Turn You Loose (1967)
Who doesn’t want to listen to a song about someone that loves another person so much that they can’t bear to think about living a life without them, even for a second? This song embodies that spirit by talking about not being able to turn loose of someone, even to the point of no longer being alive inside if they were to lose that specific individual.
4. The Dock of the Bay (1967)
In what was perhaps one of his most popular songs ever, this has often been coined as the perfect song for a lazy Sunday. It talks about sitting on the dock and letting the time pass by without a care in the world. While some people might consider that lazy, others consider it the perfect way to spend time reflecting on one’s own thoughts or better yet, spending that time with someone they love. It’s a good reminder that every second doesn’t have to be filled with something that furthers one’s career. It helps people realize that it’s okay to take the time to simply live life and enjoy it.
3. I’ve Got Dreams to Remember (1966)
This is probably one of the more depressing songs that Redding ever performed. It talks about dreaming that someone he loves has actually been with someone else, all while he witnesses them acting like they were in love together. It’s a song that is told through the lens of seeing something you don’t want to see in a dream, yet allowing that dream to be a metaphor for real life.
2. Satisfaction (1966)
A lot of people don’t recognize this the first time they hear the song, but it actually talks a great deal about the turmoil that existed during the late 1960s. Some of the lyrics in the song deal with turning on a radio and hearing yet more bad news about the state of world affairs. The song goes on to talk about not being able to be satisfied with the news that one is hearing or the way that things are in their current state. In short, it’s a song that is expressing frustration about the way the world was at that time and asking why things couldn’t be better.
1. A Change Is Gonna Come (1965)
Arguably, this might be the best song that Redding ever did. Of course, other people will likely pick another song out of this list or perhaps even choose a song that’s not on the list at all, and that is perfectly fine. As far as the song itself is concerned, it’s about recognizing that things are wrong in the world when it comes to world events and the way people treat each other, yet having the hope that things will change for the better in the future. The song also reflects the need for each individual to show responsibility and kindness to their fellow man.
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