Pop culture tells us that the Steve Cropper-produced smash “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” stands as Otis Redding’s final recording. Not so, says Cropper. In fact, he and Redding had been sure for sometime before the scalding soul singer’s death that this song would be Redding’s long-awaited breakout moment.
It was, of course, But only after a plane carrying Redding crashed.
“A lot of people think it was the last thing Otis cut,” Cropper tells Ronnie Wood in this clip. “It really wasn’t. Technically, we cut the song about two weeks prior to that. It’s something that Otis and I had been living with, we kept getting it out and playing it and going: ‘That’s our hit; that’s our hit.’ We knew we had a hit. Sometimes you know.”
“Dock of the Bay” was principally recorded for Stax in 1967, along with enough material to finish not only the album of the same name but also 1968′s Immortal Otis Redding, 1969′s Love Man and 1970′s Tell the Truth. Of course, “Dock of the Bay” was, by far, the most famous of these recordings — becoming, as predicted, a chart topper in the U.S.
Along the way, Cropper managed to add in a special touch that grew out of their time with “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay.”
“During the mixing of the song,” he adds, Redding “had clowned around, making what he called seagull sounds on the record — and I said, ‘I wonder what it would sound like if we actually put some ocean waves and some seagulls,’ so that it really did sound like Otis was sitting on a dock by a bay. I went over to one of the local jingle companies, and got their soundtrack album, found some oceans waves and seagulls and made a loop — and mixed the record. That’s the one that we all know.”