Issue 7

article-img

“(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay”
Became Otis Redding’s Swan Song

When Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” was released 50 years ago on Jan. 8, 1968, the hit song quickly became a musical touchstone, selling approximately 4 million copies worldwide and receiving more than 8 million airplays. At the time, Redding was a giant in the world of rhythm and blues but had not yet crossed over to achieve superstardom in the pop and rock worlds. With this catchy song, he truly broke through and won a worldwide audience. And yet, this tune may never have been heard if not for the singer’s tragic death in a plane crash just a few weeks earlier in December 1967.

Redding learned guitar and piano as a child, but his passion was for singing. He had deep roots in gospel music from his experience singing in the church choir but later said Sam Cooke and Little Richard were the inspiration for his distinctive style. Beginning in the late 1950s and continuing through his successful recordings and performances during the 1960s, his career followed a smooth trajectory upward.

During the spring of 1967, Redding’s Stax Records concert tour of Europe had made him a sensation on the continent. His astonishing performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of the same year won him even more fans and publicity. He was on the cusp of superstardom and was eager to return to the studio to put the finishing touches on a song that he was certain would be a hit. He remarked, “This is my first million seller right here.”

Some record company executives were not so sure. The song was a departure for Redding and was considered too experimental—neither R&B nor rock nor folk. There were those who doubted it would ever be released. Any such doubts were erased by his death. As the music world mourned, the producers at Stax Records rushed the unfinished song to completion, production, and release. “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” ended up being Redding’s closing statement and his biggest hit, winning him two posthumous Grammys. This brilliant singer-songwriter is now a legend; his song remains for the ages.

1938

Hershey’s introduced the Krackel bar, originally made with almonds in its formula until peanuts were added into the recipe in 1939. Both almonds and peanuts were removed and replaced with crisped rice balls in the milk chocolate a few years later.

Courtesy of the March of Dimes

The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later known as the March of Dimes Foundation, was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to raise money to fight the polio epidemic and fund the discovery of a vaccine.

1948

Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images

John Huston released his film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, about gold prospectors played by Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt, and Walter Huston.

AP Photo/J. Walter Green

Inspired by empty pie tins that were used as toys, business partners Fred Morrison and Warren Franscioni produced the first plastic discs and named them the “Flyin-Saucer,” which would become the Frisbee. 

1958

CBS via Getty Images

CBS began broadcasting the Young People’s Concerts at the New York Philharmonic, creating generations of music lovers and making conductor Leonard Bernstein a household name.

The novel Anatomy of a Murder by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker (under the pen name Robert Traver) was chosen as the January 1958 Book of the Month Club’s main selection.

1968

Curt Gunther/Sunday Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Sketch comedy show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In debuted on NBC and quickly become the highest-rated show by the start of the fall TV season.

The first call in the United States was officially used in Haleyville, Alabama—35 days after AT&T implemented the emergency call number.

1978

SSPL/Getty Images

Texas Instruments patented the first microchip, which debuted in the Speak & Spell toy. That same technology was later used in multiple appliances, consumer electronics, and industrial equipment.

AP photo/Bob Daugherty

Astrophysicist Sally Ride was the first woman chosen for NASA’s astronaut program. She later became the first American woman in space.

1988

The addictive puzzle game Tetris becomes available in the United States and was the first game imported from the Soviet Union.

Bryn Colton/Getty Images

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera opened on Broadway. Still playing, it has become the longest-running Broadway show ever.

1998

iStock

Washington, D.C.’s Washington National Airport was renamed Ronald Reagan National Airport as a tribute to our
40th president.

AP Photo/Rick Stevens

Serena and Venus Williams played each other in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time at the Australian Open.

2008

AP Photo/Dima Gavrysh

Film actor Heath Ledger, 28, died from an accidental prescription drug overdose in New York City.

Doug Hyun/AMC

The television show Breaking Bad, starring Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, premiered on cable network AMC.