(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"
Single by Otis Redding
from the album The Dock of the Bay
B-side "Sweet Lorene" (Volt issue)
"Keep Your Arms Around Me" (Atco reissue)
Released January 8, 1968
Format Vinyl record
Recorded November 22 and December 7, 1967, Stax Studios, Memphis, Tennessee[1]
Genre Rhythm and blues, soul
Length 2:38
Label Volt/Atco
Writer(s) Steve Cropper
Otis Redding
Producer(s) Steve Cropper
Otis Redding singles chronology
"Knock on Wood" (with Carla Thomas)
"(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay"
"The Happy Song (Dum Dum)"
"(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay"
7" single cover
Single by Sammy Hagar
B-side "I've Done Everything for You"
Released 1979
Format 7" single
Recorded May 1979
Genre Rock
Length 3:03
Label Capitol
Writer(s) Steve Cropper
Otis Redding Barry Downey
Producer(s) Carter

"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" is a song co-written by soul singer Otis Redding and guitarist Steve Cropper. It was recorded by Redding twice in 1967, including once just days before his death in a plane crash. The song was released on Stax Records' Volt label in 1968,[2] becoming the first posthumous single to top the charts in the US.[3] It charted at number 3 on the UK Singles Chart.

Redding started writing the lyrics to the song in August 1967, while sitting on a rented houseboat in Sausalito, California. He completed the song with the help of Steve Cropper, who was a Stax producer and guitarist for Booker T and the M.G.'s. The song features whistling and sounds of waves crashing on a shore.


While on tour with the Bar-Kays in August 1967, Redding wrote the first verse of the song, under the abbreviated title "Dock of the Bay," on a houseboat at Waldo Point in Sausalito, California.[1] He had completed his famed performance at the Monterey Pop Festival just months earlier, in June 1967. While touring in support of the albums King & Queen (a collaboration with female vocalist Carla Thomas) and Live in Europe, he continued to scribble lines of the song on napkins and hotel paper. In November of that year, he joined producer and guitarist Steve Cropper at the Stax recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee to record the song.[4]

In a 1990 interview on NPR's Fresh Air, Cropper explained the origins of the song:

Otis was the kind of guy who had 100 ideas. When in San Francisco staying on a houseboat and playing The Fillmore, and he was staying at a boathouse, 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," "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)"; 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.[citation needed]

Together, they completed the music and melancholy lyrics of "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay." From those sessions emerged Redding's final recorded work, including "Dock of the Bay," which was recorded on November 22, with additional overdubs on December 8.[1] Redding's restrained yet emotive delivery is backed by Cropper's memorably succinct guitar playing.[5] The song is somewhat different in style from most of Redding's other recordings.[1] While discussing the song with his wife, Redding stated that he had wanted to "be a little different" with "The Dock of the Bay" and "change his style".[1] There were concerns that "The Dock of the Bay" had too much of a pop feel for an Otis Redding record, and contracting the Stax gospel act The Staples Singers to record backing vocals was discussed but never carried out.[1] The song features machine-generated sounds of ocean waves as well as a whistled tune heard before the song's fade; the whistling, performed by his bandleader Sam "Bluzman" Taylor, was recorded after Redding's death.[6][7][8] The original whistle was actually a mistake: during the recording session, Redding bumped the music stand, and the song lyrics fell to the floor. Because studio time was running out, Redding improvised a whistled tune. The iconic whistle was re-recorded after Redding's death.[9][citation needed]

Redding continued to tour after the recording sessions, and on December 10 his charter plane crashed into Lake Monona, outside Madison, Wisconsin. Redding and six others were killed.[10]

Cover versions[edit]

"The Dock of the Bay" has been immensely popular, even after its stay at the top of the charts. The song has been covered by many artists, from his peers like Glen Campbell, Cher, Bob Dylan, Percy Sledge, Dee Clark, and Sam & Dave to artists of various genres, including Jimmy Velvit (whose cover version was included on his 2001 Grammy-nominated album Sun Sea & Sand), Widespread Panic (who opened their New Year's Eve 2005 concert with the song), Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, Kenny Rankin, Dennis Brown, Michel Pagliaro, Jacob Miller, Michael Bolton (whose version of the song reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1988), Pearl Jam, The Format, T. Rex (as a b-side of 1975's "Dreamy Lady"), Brent Smith of Shinedown (during an acoustic set in 2008 and with Zach Myers in a 2014 EP), Justin Nozuka (2007), Sara Bareilles (2008), and Garth Brooks (for the 2013 Blue-Eyed Soul album in the Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences compilation). Playing for Change recorded a version featuring Grandpa Elliott, Roger Ridley, and other performers.

Sammy Hagar released a version of the song as a non-album single in 1979. His version features the song's co-writer, Steve Cropper, on guitar and members of the band Boston Brad Delp, Sib Hashian, and Barry Goudreau on backup vocals.[11] Producer Carter had the track recorded in May 1979 with Cropper, bassist Leland Sklar, and drummer Alvin Taylor. Later, he added Hagar's vocals with background harmonies by three members of Boston, with whom Hagar had just toured.[12] Although the single was a modest hit for Hagar, he considered it producer Carter's efforts to manufacture a pop Top 40 pop hit despite Hagar's heavy metal roots.[11] Hagar and Cropper's work on the song was rated the 37th worst guitar solo in history by Pitchfork Media in 1998.[13] The song was not released on an album until 1992, when it appeared on The Best of Sammy Hagar. The b-side of Hagar's single was the first release of his studio version of "I've Done Everything for You".

Justin Timberlake covered the song for In Performance at The White House, in front of President Barack Obama.


Many who first heard the final version had doubts about the song, the sound, and the production. Among the skeptics were Phil Walden and Jim Stewart. Redding accepted some of the criticisms and fine-tuned the song. He reversed the opening, which was Redding's whistling part, and put it at the end as suggested.[citation needed] "The Dock of the Bay" was released early in 1968 and topped the charts in the US and UK. Billboard ranked the record as the No. 4 song for 1968.

Universal success[edit]

"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" was released in January 1968 amid the fallout of Redding's death. R&B stations quickly added the song to their playlists, which had been saturated with Redding's previous hits. The song shot to number one on the R&B charts in early 1968 and, starting in March, topped the pop charts for four weeks.[14] The album, which shared the song's title, became his largest-selling to date, peaking at number four on the pop albums chart.[15] "Dock of the Bay" went on to gain success in countries across the world, and brought Redding the greatest success of his career, selling more than four million copies worldwide.[16][17] The song went on to win two Grammy Awards: Best R&B Song and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.[18]


Redding's body of work at the time of his death was immense, including a backlog of archived recordings as well as those created in November and December 1967, just before his death. In mid-1968, Stax Records severed its distribution contract with Atlantic Records, which retained the label's back catalog and the rights to the unreleased Otis Redding masters.[19] Through its Atco subsidiary (Atco had distributed Otis Redding's releases from Stax's Volt label), Atlantic issued three more albums of new Redding material, one live album, and eight singles between 1968 and 1970.[19] Reprise Records issued a live album featuring Redding and Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival. Both studio albums and anthologies sold well in America and abroad. Redding was especially successful in the United Kingdom, where The Dock of the Bay went to number one, becoming the first posthumous album to reach the top spot there.[20]

In 1999, BMI named the song as the sixth-most performed song of the 20th century, with about six million performances.[21] Rolling Stone ranked The Dock of the Bay number 161 on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, the third of five Redding albums on the list. "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" was ranked 28th on Rolling Stone '​s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the second-highest of four Redding songs on the list, after "Respect".[22]

Jim Morrison references "Dock of the Bay" in The Doors' song "Runnin' Blue" written by Robby Krieger from their 1969 album The Soft Parade. Morrison sings an a capella intro for the song, singing directly about Otis Redding. "Poor Otis dead and gone, left me here to sing his song, pretty little girl with a red dress on, poor Otis dead and gone." And during the verse, the lyrics "Got to find a dock and a bay" appear more than once; as well as several other references to Redding's song.

Chart history[edit]

Original version[edit]

Chart (1968) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100 1[15]
Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles 1[15]
UK Singles Chart 3[23]

Cover versions[edit]

In addition to the original Otis Redding version, several other versions have charted on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. King Curtis's version charted for five weeks starting in March 1968 and peaked at #84 (during the same month, the original was #1). A year later, Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66's version charted for five weeks starting in June 1969 and peaked at #66. Sammy Hagar's version charted for five weeks starting in April 1979, peaking at #65. The Reddings, who included two of Otis Redding's sons, released a version which charted for nine weeks starting in June 1982 and peaked at #55. Michael Bolton's rendition charted for 17 weeks starting in January 1988 and peaked at #11, making it the highest-charting cover version.[24]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Bowman, Rob (2007). Liner Notes for Dreams to Remember: The Otis Redding Story [DVD]. Beverly Hills, CA: Reelin' in the Years Productions/Concord Music Group.
  2. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 51 - The Soul Reformation: Phase three, soul music at the summit. [Part 7] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. 
  3. ^ Rose Lichter-Marck (March 25, 2011). "The undying soul of Otis". The Daily Holdings, Inc. Retrieved May 13, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Dock of the Bay origin/meaning". Archived from the original on 11 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-01. 
  5. ^ Richie Unterberger. "Otis Redding – Biography". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  6. ^ Bowman 1997, p. 134.
  7. ^ Sam Taylor obit
  8. ^ Sam Taylor provided the whistling
  9. ^ Steve Cropper, co-writer
  10. ^ Guralnick 1999, p. 394–395.
  11. ^ a b Hagar, Sammy; Selvin, Joel (2011). Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock. HarperCollins. p. 77. ISBN 0-06-200928-1. 
  12. ^ Liner notes. Sammy Hagar. The Best of Sammy Hagar. Capitol CDP 0777 7 80262 2 8. 1992.
  13. ^ Michael Sandlin. "Top 50 Worst Guitar Solos of the Millennium". Reprint of "Top 50 Worst Guitar Solos in Music History". Pitchfork Media. 28 October 1998. Archived January 25, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 486. 
  15. ^ a b c "Otis Redding – Charts & Awards". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  16. ^ Otfinoski 2003, p. 194.
  17. ^ "Honors". Otis Redding Official Website. Retrieved October 13, 2011. 
  18. ^ "1968 Grammy Award Winners". Grammy.com. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  19. ^ a b Bowman 1997, p. 138-142.
  20. ^ "1968 Top 40 Official UK Albums Archive 22nd June 1968". London: The Official Charts Company. 2010. Retrieved October 19, 2011. 
  21. ^ "BMI Announces Top 100 Songs of the Century". at BMI.com. 13 December 1999. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  22. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". RollingStone.com. Archived from the original on 16 May 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  23. ^ "Artist Chart History - Otis Redding". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved July 5, 2012. 
  24. ^ Joel Whitburn. Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles: 1955–2002. Record Research, 2004.


External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Love is Blue" by Paul Mauriat
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
March 16, 1968
Succeeded by
"Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro
Preceded by
"We're a Winner" by The Impressions
Billboard Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles number one single
March 16–30, 1968
Succeeded by
"(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone" by Aretha Franklin