Before studying singing with the Estonian baritone Aleksander Arder in Yaroslavl in the rear of the Eastern Front, where a cultural centre for evacuated Estonians had been established, Ots was a young Navy Officer who had escaped a sinking ship and was taken prisoner in Russia. He was released a year later, and on his return home he auditioned for the conservatory in Tallinn. At the same time, he became a member of the chorus at the Estonia Theatre in Tallinn. His solo opera debut was a tiny part in Eugene Onegin (1944). He soon became one of the most revered singers with this opera company, with whom he sang from 1951 until his death in 1975.
Ots was also a welcomed performer in all the major opera houses of the former Soviet Union, being especially popular at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. His repertoire included the roles of: Eugene Onegin, Yeletzky, Escamillo, Renato, Don Giovanni, Papageno, Rigoletto, Iago, Porgy, Figaro, and the title role in Kabalevsky's Colas Breugnon. Ots sang in Estonian, Russian, Finnish, German, Italian and French, and was fluent in all six languages. Ots's most famous role, with which he is often identified with, was the leading character in Anton Rubinstein's opera The Demon. The libretto of The Demon is based on Mikhail Lermontov's famous epic poem, once banned because of its plot line which involves a misalliance between a dark angel and a Georgian princess. Georg Ots's interpretation of the Demon was admired and loved all over Russia, and made Lermontov's controversial poem even more famous.
The popularity of Ots culminated in 1958 with the release of the Lenfilm Studios musical Mister X, based on Imre Kalman's operetta Die Zirkusprinzessin. Ots also played a leading role in Between Three Plagues, a film based on a historical novel by Jaan Kross which illuminates the life of Balthasar Russow (played by Ots), a distinguished Estonian writer and chronicler. Russow (1536–1600) was the author of Chronicle of Livonia, a masterpiece which describes the life "of" and "in" Estonia between the 12th and 16th century and is one of the most important literary works on Estonian culture and history of that period.
Ots loved to perform songs by Schubert, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and several other Russian composers, and was also a devoted interpreter of Estonian folk songs. His voice could be heard on radio and TV all over the Soviet Union, and all his records sold out almost immediately.
He also performed successfully in various European countries. After his death in 1975, the Tallinn Music School was named after him (now Georg Otsa nimeline Tallinna Muusikakool). In 1997, Russian scientists gave his name to a newly discovered minor planet. He was married three times (to Margot, Asta, and Ilona Ots respectively) and had two daughters, a son (daughter Ülle and son Ülo with Asta, and daughter Mariann with Ilona) and two adopted sons (Hendrik and Jüri).
Ots belonged to the IX convocation (1974–1979) of the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR.
In November 2005, a musical Georg based on Georg Ots' life was premiered in Tallinn, and on October 5, 2007, Georg, a fiction film based on his life was released.
- The asteroid "1977 QAI" was named 3738 Ots in his honour in 1996.
- A street beside the Estonia Theatre is named Georg Otsa tänav
- Georg Ots Tallinn School of Music, one of the most important music schools in Estonia