“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” is a song co-written by soul singer Otis Redding and guitarist Steve Cropper. It was first recorded by Otis Redding in 1967, days before his death on December 10, 1967 in a plane crash in Wisconsin that killed everyone onboard except Ben Cauley, the trumpeter in the band. It was released posthumously on Stax Records’ Volt label in 1968, becoming the first posthumous single to top the charts in the US. It charted at number 3 on the UK Singles Chart.
In August 1967, while sitting on a rented houseboat in Sausalito, Redding started writing the lyrics to the song. He completed the writing with the help of Stax producer Steve Cropper, who was also guitarist in Booker T and the M.G.’s. The song incorporates mimicked seagull whistles and sounds of the waves crashing on the shore. Tragically, just three days after Redding and band mates finished the final refinements of the song, Redding, five band mates (James Alexander, Carl Cunningham, Jimmy Lee King, Phalon Jones, Ronnie Caldwell, and Matthew Kelly) and pilot Richard “Dick” Fraser died in a plane crash that landed in Lake Monona, Wisconsin. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” became the first posthumous album to reach number one on the Billboard Music Charts.
In a 1990 interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, Cropper explained the “origins” of the song:
Otis was one of those kind of guys who had 100 ideas. Anytime he came in to record he always had 10 or 15 different intros or titles, or whatever. He had been at San Francisco 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.
Together, they completed the music and melancholy lyrics of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” From those sessions emerged Otis Redding’s final recordings, including “Dock of the Bay,” which was recorded on November 22, with additional overdubs on December 8.
Many who first heard the final version had many doubts about the song, the sound, and the direction. Among some of the skeptics were Phil Walden and Jim Stewart. Redding accepted some of the criticisms and fined tuned the song. He reversed the opening, which was Redding’s whistling part and put it at the end as suggested. A few months before composition of Redding’s most famous hit, British music magazine, “Melody Maker” named Otis Redding as the world’s #1 vocalist. He dethroned Elvis Presley who had reigned for the previous ten years. “The Dock of the Bay” was released early in 1968 and topped the charts in the US and UK.
Geoff Brown said: “Dock of the Bay” is redolent of a period and a culture. But more than that, its mood of contemplation, its atmosphere of quiet yearning mixed with a generation-hopping favorite.
“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” was released in January 1968 amid the fall-out of Redding’s death. R&B stations readily 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, from March, topped the pop charts for four weeks. The album, which shared the song’s title, was released and became his largest selling to date, peaking at number four on the Pop Albums chart. “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 and receiving more than eight million airplays. The song went on to win two Grammy Awards: Best R&B Song and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.
Sittin’ in the morning sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evening comes
watching the ships roll in
and then I watch them roll away again, yeah
I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
watching the tide roll away
I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” is een soulnummer, dat door Otis Redding en Steve Cropper geschreven werd. Redding nam het kort voor zijn overlijden op en werd begeleid door Booker T. & the M.G.’s. Op de B-kant van de door Volt, een sublabel van Stax Records, op 8 januari 1968 uitgebrachte single stond het liedje “Sweet Lorene”.
Een prachtig, sfeervol nummer. Waarschijnlijk een afwijking van me, maar ik vind het zelf ook heerlijk om zo af en toe in m’n eentje op een strandje aan de rivier te zitten en een beetje te kijken naar de voorbij varende boten. Zo maar wat turen naar het water en naar wat er allemaal op dat water gebeurt, luisterend naar de geluiden die daar op me af komen. Even alleen met mezelf en mijn eigen gedachten.
Niet gestoord door andere mensen, door smartphones of laptops. Gewoon genietend van de stilte van de rust een beetje tijd verspillen, want hoe kostbaar die tijd ook is, dit soort momenten zou ik voor geen goud willen missen!
Ik ben dan ook vast van plan om er de komende maanden weer heel wat tijd door te brengen daar aan die rivier.