♫ (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay ♫

Tonight’s song has the distinction of being the first posthumous number one hit in American music history.   Otis Redding died in a plane crash on December 10, 1967, a month before this song was released (January 8, 1968) and three days after he recorded it. It was by far his biggest hit, though given that he was a rising star at the time of his death, it is likely he would have had at least a few more had he lived.  This is one of my favourites.

Stax guitarist Steve Cropper wrote this with Redding. Cropper produced the album when Redding died, including this track with various songs Redding had recorded the last few years.  Says Cropper …

“Otis was one of those kind of guys who had 100 ideas. Anytime he came in to record he always had 10 or 15 different intros or titles, or whatever. He had been at San Francisco playing The Fillmore, and he was staying at a boathouse (in Sausalito, across the bay from San Francisco), which is where he got the idea of the ship coming in. That’s about all he had: ‘I watch the ships come in and I watch them roll away again.’ I took that and finished the lyrics.  If you listen to the songs I wrote with Otis, most of the lyrics are about him. He didn’t usually write about himself, but I did. ‘Mr. Pitiful,’ ‘Sad Song Fa-Fa,’ they were about Otis’ life. ‘Dock Of The Bay’ was exactly that: ‘I left my home in Georgia, headed for the Frisco Bay’ was all about him going out to San Francisco to perform.”

The end of this song contains perhaps the most famous whistling in music history. It wasn’t planned, but when Steve Cropper and Stax engineer Ronnie Capone heard it, they knew it had to stay. Cropper explained on his website:

“If you’re an Otis Redding fan you’d know that he’s probably the world’s greatest at ad-libbing at the end of a song. Sometimes you could go another minute or two with Otis Redding’s ad-libs – they were so spontaneous and felt so great. And this particular song I think baffled Otis a little bit because of the tempo and the mood, so when we got down to the end of it he really didn’t have anything to ad-lib with, and he just started whistling. That just sparked Ronnie Capone and myself off, and almost immediately we said, ‘Hey man, that’s great, leave that in there.’ It sure is a cool melody to go out with.”

Redding recorded this with Booker T. & the MG’s, the house band for Stax Records. They played with all the Stax artists, including Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, and Albert King, and had a hit on their own with Green Onions in 1962.

In 1993, when the three remaining members of Booker T. & the MG’s (Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, and Booker T. Jones), backed Neil Young on his tour, they ended each show with Dock of the Bay.

Sittin’on The Dock Of The Bay
Otis Redding

Sitting in the morning sun
I’ll be sitting when the evening comes
Watching the ships roll in
And I watch ’em roll away again

Sitting on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
I’m just sitting on the dock of the bay
Wasting time
I left my home in Georgia
Headed for the ‘Frisco bay
‘Cause I had nothin to live for
And look like nothing’s gonna come my way
So I’m just

Look like nothing’s gonna change
Everything still remains the same
I can’t do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I’ll remain the same
Sittin’ here resting my bones
And this loneliness won’t leave me alone
It’s two thousand miles I roamed
Just to make this dock my home
Now, I’m just

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Steve Cropper / Otis Redding
Sittin’on The Dock Of The Bay lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

31 thoughts on “♫ (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay ♫

  1. Pingback: ♫ (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay ♫ | The Inglorius Padre Steve's World

      • No, I didn’t have them sing it. Their instructions were to listen and then discuss with a partner: Have you heard the song before? Who sang it? What is it about? What words/phrases did you understand? — They discussed this in pairs and then all together. Then I gave them two more questions (depending on what they had understood the first time) and played it again. — This was always a good way to get them to listen carefully and get started talking (all in English, of course), but with the social distancing regulations now in place, the school has banned pair work, so I will either have to come up with a different procedure or (more likely) finally retire from teaching after 48 years.

        Liked by 2 people

        • You are the sort of teacher we need more of … one who gives the students food for thought, then encourages them to actually think. Too many today seem to think that education is learning facts … and certainly that is part of it, but it’s so important to teach young people how to reason, how to think. 48 years!!! Wow, Don … thumbs up to you! I considered teaching and quickly realized I did not have the right temperament for it. Best of luck, whatever you decide.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Jill, great background on a great song by a performer we lost much too early. Booker T and the MGs were a terrific band, not unlike the Wrecking Crew in LA or the studio musicians at Motown. Like Cropper did here, they often wrote all or parts of songs making them better.

    As for Redding, seeing him sing “Try a little tenderness” is a treat. Thanks for sharing, Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree … I love the song and could easily lose myself in Otis’ voice. Imagine the music he might have made had he lived … but then, I’ve said that of so many. I’ll check out “Try a Little Tenderness” … I’m sure I must have heard it, but it’s not ringing a bell. Glad you liked the song!


    • I’m glad you liked the song! Yes, part of the “great American dream” … to go to Hollywood or Memphis and make it to the big league. Trouble is, only a small fraction actually do make it, and those who do usually end up making a mess of their lives, as the ‘fame & fortune’ are too much and they turn to drugs, alcohol, or other self-destructive behaviours. ‘Tis indeed sad.

      Liked by 1 person

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