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Dock Of The Bay by Otis Redding
Album: Dock Of The Bay
Date: 1968
U.S. Chart: 1
U.K. Chart: 3
Lyrics: View Lyrics
Otis Redding
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People who like this song also like "Drive" "Jumper" and "The Best Deceptions"
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Redding died in a plane crash on December 10, 1967, 6 weeks before this was released and 3 days before he recorded it. It was by far his biggest hit and was also the first ever posthumous #1 single in the US. Redding was a rising star moving toward mainstream success at the time of his death. There is a good chance he would have recorded many more hits if he had lived.
In June 1967 after Redding's performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival, he took a break on a houseboat in Sausalito, California. It was on the houseboat that he wrote the first verse for this song. He continued to scribble lines of the song on napkins and hotel paper while touring. In December 1967 at a recording studio in Memphis, together with Steve Cropper he completed the music and lyrics apart from the last verse. He planned to return to Memphis and fill in the verse after performing in Madison, Wisconsin, but his plane crashed into a lake in Wisconsin. While divers searched for Redding's body, Cropper kept his mind busy by mixing the song, including keeping the whistled last verse. On December 11, 1967, the plane was pulled out of the lake, with Redding still strapped into the co-pilot's seat. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Asford, Kent, England)
When Otis recorded this, he didn't have a last verse written, so he whistled it. He planned to return to Memphis and fill in the verse after performing in Madison, Wisconsin, but he died before he had the chance. When Cropper produced the song, he left the whistling in, and it fit the mood of the song perfectly. It is probably the most famous whistling in any song. (thanks to Nashid at the Stax Museum for confirming this)
This won 1968 Grammy Awards for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance, plus Best Rhythm & Blues Song for writers Otis Redding and Steve Cropper.
Redding was the star recording artist for Stax Records, a Memphis label that made classic Soul music. They never recovered from the death of Redding, and Stax was shut down in 1975. In 2001, construction started on a Soul music museum where the studios once stood.
Beach sound effects (waves, seagulls, etc.), were dubbed in after the recording.
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 And Dave, and Albert King, and had a hit on their own with "Green Onions" in 1962.
Redding died 5 months before Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot in Memphis, where this was recorded. The mood of peace and harmony evoked in this song gave way to angry racial tensions. Booker T And The MGs contained 2 whites and 2 blacks, standing out as an integrated band in a segregated city.
Stax guitarist Steve Cropper wrote this with Redding. Cropper produced the album when Redding died, including this with various songs Redding had recorded the last few years.
In 1993, the 3 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 this.
Redding started to compose this while he was recovering from surgery removing polyps from his vocal chords. The doctors told him not to sing or talk for six weeks after the operation.
Redding wrote this soon after listening to The Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which had just been released. Shortly before he started recording "Dock of the Bay," Redding alluded to it as an extension of the Beatles' music. In 1966 and 1967, Redding performed "A Hard Day's Night" and "Day Tripper" at some of his concerts.
This was so unlike any other Otis Redding composition that Stax Records chief Jim Stewart did not want the song released in any form - even after hearing both Redding and Cropper insist that it would be his first #1 single. Stewart relented when he heard the finished master recording put together by Cropper after Redding's death. (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL, for above 4)
During the Vietnam War, this was very popular with American troops fighting there. The song portrayed quite the opposite of their reality.
The song is featured in the 1987 film Platoon.
Music licensing company BMI named this as the sixth-most performed song of the 20th century, with around 6 million performances. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Asford, Kent, England, for above 2)
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Definitely my favorite song. This song always calms you down and put you in a care-free mood.
- lindzy, Los Angeles, CA
I have heard that 'Dock of the Bay' was actually about Monterey, a festival that took place in '67.
- sarah, indianapolis, IN
Bob Rivers ( has a great parody called "Sellin' All My Junk on Ebay."
- Steven, Sunnyvale, CA
It has my vote for #1 best soul song.
- Jon, Oakridge, OR
I was at Ft leonardwood, Missouri when they broke in on the music and announced Otis Redding was dead. I was so into "soul music" and he was one of my favorite singers for a while. still love his music.
- George, Richmond, VA
This song is so amazing, every aspect of it: the horns in the background, the chiming guitar, the bass, Redding's lyrics, voice, and my favorite part the whistling. They all work to make the song the kind you want to listen to over and over.
- Sammy, New York, NY
i was always told this song was about suicide. but now i dunno... love that whistling!
- Dee, khancoban, Australia
Earlier, it was stated the 'beach sound effects (waves, seagulls, etc.), were dubbed in after the recording.' This is because Otis sat in the window to record the vocals on a rainy day and they were added to complete the effect. The 'swooshing' sounds you hear are not waves effects, but the rain coming down outside the studio.
- Joel-Steven, Anaheim, CA
This is #28 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
- Ross, Independence, MO
The Doors wrote a tribute song about Otis Redding in 1969 called 'Runnin Blue'. It contained some of the lyrics of 'Dock of the Bay'
- Xavier, Melbourne, Australia
what a brillaint song this really is.
- rhett, Melbourne, Australia
amazing song. thats funny that he didn't haev a verse and they just left the whistling in after he died. i wonder what otis would say about that. seems to me he wouldn't mind.
- jessa, Brampton, ON, Canada
I have heard that this song is a protest song; that Otis was torn about the war and decided that he would just "sit on the dock." -Mc, Baltimore, MD
- Mac, Batlimore, MD
This is quite possibly the greatest soul song ever written. There's nothing like cracking open a cold one and listening to "Dock of the Bay" while sitting by the ocean.
- Dustin, Tampa, FL

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