(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"
An early US vinyl pressing
Single by Otis Redding
from the album The Dock of the Bay
  • "Sweet Lorene" (Volt issue)
  • "Keep Your Arms Around Me" (Atco reissue)
ReleasedJanuary 8, 1968
RecordedNovember 22 and December 7, 1967
StudioStax, Memphis, Tennessee[1]
GenreSoul, folk[2][3]
Producer(s)Steve Cropper
Otis Redding singles chronology
"Knock on Wood"
"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"
"The Happy Song (Dum Dum)"
Music video
"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" on YouTube

"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" is a song co-written by soul singer Otis Redding and guitarist Steve Cropper. Redding recorded it twice in 1967, including just three days before his death in a plane crash on December 10, 1967. It was released on Stax Records' Volt label in 1968,[4] becoming the first posthumous #1 single in the US.[5] It reached #3 on the UK Singles Chart.

Redding started writing the lyrics in August, 1967 while staying on a rented houseboat in Sausalito, California. He completed the song in Memphis with Cropper, a Stax producer and the guitarist for Booker T. & the M.G.'s. It features whistling and sounds of waves crashing on a shore.


While on tour with the Bar-Kays in August 1967, Redding had grown in popularity and was inundated with fans at his hotel in San Francisco. Rock concert impresario Bill Graham offered him a respite, staying at his houseboat at Waldo Point Harbor in Sausalito, California. It was there where Redding started writing the lines, "Sittin' in the morning sun, I'll be sittin' when the evening comes" and the song's first verse, under the abbreviated title "Dock of the Bay."[1][6][7]

He had completed his famed performance at the Monterey Pop Festival just weeks earlier. While touring in support of the albums King & Queen (a collaboration with vocalist Carla Thomas) and Live in Europe, he continued writing lines for the song on napkins and hotel paper. That November, he joined Cropper at the Stax recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee, where they completed and recorded it.[8]

In a September 1990 interview on NPR's Fresh Air, Cropper said:

Otis was one of those [guys] who had 100 ideas. [...] He had been in San Francisco doing The Fillmore. And the story that I got, he was renting a boathouse, or stayed at a boathouse or something, and that's where he got the idea of the ships coming in the bay there. And that's about all he had: "I watch the ships come in and I watch them roll away again." I just took that... and I finished the lyrics. If you listen to the songs I collaborated on with Otis, most of the lyrics are about him. [...] Otis didn't really write about himself but I did. Songs like "Mr. Pitiful," "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)"; they were about Otis and 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.[9]

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 7.[1] Redding's restrained yet emotive delivery is backed by Cropper's succinct guitar playing.[10] The song is somewhat different in style from most of Redding's recordings.[1] While discussing it with his wife, Redding said that he wanted it to "be a little different", to "change his style".[1] There were concerns that the song had too much of a pop feel. There were discussions of contracting the Stax gospel act the Staple Singers to record backing vocals, but this was never carried out.[1] Redding considered the song unfinished, and planned to record what he considered a final version, but never got the chance.[11]

The song features a whistled melody heard before it fades out; it is unclear who performed it. Some sources claim Sam Taylor, a guitarist/bandleader for Redding during the 1960s, overdubbed Redding's original, weaker whistle.[12] Cropper, however, insists that Redding's original whistle was used.[7]

Redding continued touring after the sessions. On December 10, his chartered plane crashed into Lake Monona outside Madison, Wisconsin, killing him and six others.[13]

After Redding's death, Cropper mixed "Dock of the Bay" at Stax Studios. He added the sound of seagulls and crashing waves, as Redding had requested, recalling the sounds he had heard staying on the houseboat.[14]




Region Certification Certified units/sales
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[26] Platinum 90,000
Italy (FIMI)[27] Gold 25,000
Japan 400,000[28]
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[29] Platinum 60,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[30] 2× Platinum 1,200,000
United States (RIAA)[31] 3× Platinum 3,000,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


Phil Walden and Jim Stewart were among those who had doubts about the song, the sound, and the production. 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 number 4 song for 1968.

Universal success[edit]

"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" was released in January 1968, shortly after 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 #1 on the R&B charts in early 1968 and, starting in March, topped the pop charts for four weeks.[32] The album, which shared the song's title, became his largest-selling to date, peaking at #4 on the pop album chart.[20] "Dock of the Bay" was popular in countries across the world and became Redding's most successful song, selling more than four million copies worldwide.[33][34]

In 1969, it won two Grammy Awards: Best R&B Song and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.[35] In 1998 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[36]


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.[37] 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.[37] 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.[38]

In 1999, BMI named the song as the sixth-most performed song of the twentieth century, with about six million performances.[39] 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 twenty-sixth on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the second-highest of four Redding songs on the list, after "Respect" (in this case the version recorded by Aretha Franklin).[40]

Jim Morrison made reference to "Dock of the Bay" in the Doors' song "Runnin' Blue", written by Robby Krieger, from their 1969 album The Soft Parade.[41] 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." During the verse, the lyrics "Got to find a dock and a bay" are heard more than once, as well as several other references to Redding's song.

In 2013, Redding's son Otis Redding III performed the song at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Brannan Street Wharf on the Embarcadero in San Francisco's South Beach neighborhood. The song's lyrics are emblazoned there on a plaque,[42] leading some to believe Redding wrote the song there (especially as the lyrics reference the “Frisco Bay”). It was actually written ten miles farther north, in Sausalito, as Redding watched “the ships come in” on Richardson Bay.[7]

Michael Bolton version[edit]

"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"
7-inch single cover
Single by Michael Bolton
from the album The Hunger
B-side"Call My Name"
  • Steve Cropper
  • Otis Redding
  • Jonathan Cain
  • Keith Diamond
  • Susan Hamilton
Michael Bolton singles chronology
"That's What Love Is All About"
"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"
"Wait on Love"
Music video
"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" on YouTube

Michael Bolton included the song on his 1987 album The Hunger. His version peaked number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 12 on the Album Rock Tracks chart.[43] The version also peaked number three in Australia, number five in Norway, and number eight in New Zealand.

Zelma Redding, Otis's widow, said she was so moved by Bolton's performance "that it brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me so much of my husband that I know if he heard it, he would feel the same."[44] In a framed letter that hangs on the wall of Bolton's office, she referred to the record as "my all-time favorite version of my husband's classic."[45]


Chart (1988) Peak
Australia (Australian Music Report)[46] 3
Canada (RPM)[47] 9
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[48] 8
Norway (VG-lista)[49] 5
UK Singles (OCC)[50] 77
US Billboard Hot 100[51] 11
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[52] 58
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[53] 12

Other cover versions[edit]

"(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay"
Single by Sammy Hagar
B-side"I've Done Everything for You"
RecordedAugust 1978-May 1979[54]
  • Steve Cropper
  • Otis Redding

Several other versions of the song have charted on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. King Curtis' version charted for five weeks starting in March 1968 and peaked at #84 (the same month, the original was #1). A year later, Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66's version charted for five weeks starting in June 1969, peaking at #66.

Glen Campbell released a version of the song on his 1968 album Wichita Lineman.

Canadian singer Michel Pagliaro reached #70 on the Canadian charts with his version in 1977.[55]

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 BostonBrad Delp, Sib Hashian and Barry Goudreau—on backup vocals.[56] Music critic Thor Christensen in 1994 listed it as one of the "five worst song remakes".[57] It charted for five weeks starting in April 1979, peaking at #65, and #66 in Canada.[58]

The Reddings, who included two of Otis Redding's sons, released a version which charted for nine weeks starting in June 1982, peaking at #55.[43]


  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. ^ "(Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay: How Otis Redding Sang His Own Elegy".
  3. ^ "Inside Otis Redding's Masterpiece '(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay'". Rolling Stone. December 10, 2017.
  4. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 51 – The Soul Reformation: Phase three, soul music at the summit. [Part 7] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  5. ^ Rose Lichter-Marck (March 25, 2011). "The undying soul of Otis". The Daily Holdings, Inc. Retrieved May 13, 2011.
  6. ^ "I found the Bay Area dock where Otis Redding wrote his final song". SFGate. June 6, 2021. Retrieved November 28, 2022.
  7. ^ a b c Miller, Stuart (December 10, 2017). "Inside Otis Redding's Final Masterpiece '(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 31, 2021.
  8. ^ "Dock of the Bay origin/meaning". Archived from the original on June 11, 2007. Retrieved June 1, 2007.
  9. ^ Cropper, Steve (September 18, 1990). "Guitarist, songwriter and producer Steve Cropper". Fresh Air (Interview). Interviewed by Terry Gross. NPR. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved June 4, 2015 – via WHYY-FM.
  10. ^ Richie Unterberger. "Otis Redding – Biography". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved February 25, 2012.
  11. ^ Henry, Mike (January 1, 2013). Black History: More Than Just a Month. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781475802610 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Specktor, Brandon (March 12, 2018). "17 Great Songs That Were Nearly Ruined By Their Original Lyrics". Reader's Digest. Retrieved May 30, 2021.
  13. ^ Guralnick 1999, p. 394–395.
  14. ^ Sullivan 2013, p. 116.
  15. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Dock of the Bay". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  16. ^ "{{{artist}}} – Dock of the Bay". Top Digital Download. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  17. ^ "flavour of new zealand – search listener". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Archived from the original on July 9, 2021. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  18. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  19. ^ "Artist Chart History – Otis Redding". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  20. ^ a b c "Otis Redding – Charts & Awards". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved February 25, 2012.
  21. ^ "Cashbox Top 100: March 16, 1968". cashboxmagazine.com. Retrieved April 2, 2021.
  22. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  23. ^ "Top 100 1968 - UK Music Charts". Uk-charts.top-source.info. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  24. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1968/Top 100 Songs of 1968". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  25. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 60th Anniversary Interactive Chart". Billboard. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  26. ^ "Danish single certifications – Otis Redding – (Sittin' on the) Dock of the Bay". IFPI Danmark. Retrieved March 1, 2024.
  27. ^ "Italian single certifications – Otis Redding – (Sittin' on the) Dock of the Bay" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved July 15, 2019. Select "2019" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "(Sittin' on the) Dock of the Bay" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  28. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1985). Million selling records from the 1900s to the 1980s : an illustrated directory. Arco Pub. p. 269. ISBN 0668064595. The disc also sold over 400,000 in Japan
  29. ^ "Spanish single certifications – Otis Redding – (Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay". El portal de Música. Productores de Música de España. Retrieved May 9, 2024.
  30. ^ "British single certifications – Otis Redding – (Sittin' on the) Dock of the Bay". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved June 7, 2022.
  31. ^ "American single certifications – Otis Redding – (Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  32. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 486.
  33. ^ Otfinoski 2003, p. 194.
  34. ^ "Honors". Otis Redding Official Website. Archived from the original on January 11, 2011. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  35. ^ "1968 Grammy Award Winners". Grammy.com. Retrieved May 1, 2011.
  36. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame Award". Retrieved February 11, 2024.
  37. ^ a b Bowman 1997, pp. 138–142.
  38. ^ "1968 Top 40 Official UK Albums Archive 22nd June 1968". London: Official Charts Company. 2010. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
  39. ^ "BMI Announces Top 100 Songs of the Century". at BMI.com. December 13, 1999. Retrieved February 25, 2012.
  40. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". RollingStone.com. Archived from the original on May 16, 2007. Retrieved June 2, 2007.
  41. ^ Testa, Bart (October 23, 1969). "Two Discs Extol Warmth of Home". The Morning Call. p. 37. Retrieved November 6, 2019 – via newspapers.com.
  42. ^ "Brannan Street Wharf Now Open to the Public". August 2013. Retrieved November 28, 2022.
  43. ^ a b Joel Whitburn. Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles: 1955–2002. Record Research, 2004.
  44. ^ "People Are Talking About . . ". Jet. January 18, 1988. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  45. ^ "Michael Bolton: 'How Black Music Changed My Life'". Ebony. December 1995. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  46. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  47. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - April 23, 1988" (PDF).
  48. ^ "Michael Bolton – (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay". Top 40 Singles.
  49. ^ "Michael Bolton – (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay". VG-lista.
  50. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  51. ^ "Michael Bolton Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  52. ^ "Michael Bolton Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard.
  53. ^ "Michael Bolton Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard.
  54. ^ "Studio Track" (PDF). Billboard. New York: Billboard. August 26, 1978. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  55. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - April 2, 1977" (PDF).
  56. ^ Hagar, Sammy; Selvin, Joel (2011). Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock. HarperCollins. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-06-200928-9.
  57. ^ Christensen, Thor (July 18, 1993). "Christensen's picks". Milwaukee Journal. p. E8. ISSN 1052-4452. ProQuest 333625900 – via ProQuest.
  58. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - May 12, 1979" (PDF).


External links[edit]