Steve Cropper has had a composing hand in a number of iconic songs, from Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” to Booker T. and the MGs’ “Green Onions” to Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood.” He’s served as a producer for countless others, including Tower of Power, REO Speedwagon, John Mayall and Poco.
But there was one time that stands out, one time in which Cropper says he knew — right from the first — that he had a huge hit on his hands: “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” a song Cropper collaborated on with the late, great Otis Redding.
“I said, when we wrote it, this is a No. 1 record,” Cropper says, in a newly posted Music Vault interview. “I remember that moment well. The reason I do, is because Otis was in a real precarious situation with his career, in terms of crossing over and how far he could take his unique style of singing. He was very, very big in Europe, but he hadn’t really broken in the states. There we were, with 16 hit singles and trying to get another one, and when we came up with ‘(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,’ I just said immediately: This is it. This is the one that’s going to do it.”
And it did, only Redding wasn’t there to enjoy the moment. He died in a tragic plane crash in December of 1967, with ‘Dock of the Bay” still only partially completed. Cropper finished the track, and it became the first-ever posthumous No. 1 song — hurtling Redding to well deserved but belated fame.
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