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Intro

Otis Redding came up with the idea for "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" in 1967, while he was living on a houseboat docked on the San Francisco Bay. But although it was inspired by real events, and is at some level autobiographical, listeners have come up with some very different interpretations for this song. Some people think it's an expression of peace with life, while others hear overwhelming sadness – which isn't surprising, considering that Redding died tragically in a plane crash at age 26, just after recording the song.  

Despite the song's mixed interpretations, everybody is agreed on the fact that it's intimate, emotional, and powerful. It's guaranteed to put you in a reflective mood, much like looking out across the water and listening to the waves.

About the Song

ArtistOtis Redding Musician(s)Otis Redding (vocals), Steve Cropper (guitar), Booker T. Jones & Isaac Hayes (keyboards), Donald "Duck" Dunn (bass), Al Jackson, Jr. (drums), Wayne Jackson (trumpet)
AlbumThe Dock of the Bay
Year1968
LabelStax/Volt, reissued by Atco
Writer(s)Otis Redding, Steve Cropper
Producer(s)Steve Cropper
Learn to play: Tablature
Buy this song: Amazon iTunes
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Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
Otis Redding built a following in the early 1960s as an R&B performer. He and his label, Stax Records, played a big part in the story of soul music, and by extension, in the history of the blues and R&B, the roots of soul. 

But Redding wanted more – he wanted to expand his audience. It was a big deal to appeal to both white and black audiences in the 1960s. In 1967, he took his chances at the Monterey Pop Festival, his first big performance for a mostly white audience. It was a huge success, and the crowd went wild. Soon after, he recorded "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay," a song he said was influenced by The Beatles' Sgt. Peppers' Lonely Hearts Club Band, and a great example of the give and take between R&B and rock and roll.

On the Charts

"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" was released after Redding's death at age 26, and climbed to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the first posthumous #1 single.
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