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The Afterlife of Otis Redding

Broadcast: December 17, 2017 at 4 p.m.

This week's special is from Open Source with Christopher Lydon.

Otis Redding’s five magnificent years in showbiz transformed the sound of soul music. His grainy, growling, and “squawking” voice kept the music rooted in the older traditions of the black church and black life in America. Yet his secularized sound—tempered with the sweetness of Sam Cooke, the flamboyant flair of Little Richard, and the showmanship of James Brown—also ushered in a new era of African American pop in the ’60s.

With a little help from his virtuosic, multiracial band, Redding’s appeal also managed to cross over to white audiences on stage. His show-stealing set at the Monterey Pop Festival led Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir to claim, after Redding’s performance, that he had “seen God on stage.” Chris’s brother Michael Lydon, a music journalist at the time, was also there covering the event. He described Otis’s appearance as “ecstasy, madness, loss, total screaming, fantastic.” Six months later, that Monterey god died in a plane crash. “The crown prince of soul,” the Rolling Stone headline declared, “is dead.” 50 years after this tragic loss, we’re looking back at the living legacy of Otis Redding’s soul. 

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