Funny how airplanes have robbed the world of almost as much talent as drugs and alcohol. Unlike substance abuse related deaths, which are generally seen as signs of poor character, airplane deaths are particularly tragic in their randomness. There’s something Act of God-like about it, like the almighty had a notion that we humans have had all the Otis Redding we’re entitled to. No one would suggest that Redding himself was reaping God’s punishment; he was a standup guy by all accounts. No, it’s the rest of us sinners. Whatever small comfort we can scrape from listening to a little soul music, we don’t deserve. You can still listen to Otis, of course, because the art lives on long after the artist himself is dust, but maybe say a little benediction or something.
Things I need to learn more about, number four hundred thousand: obscure Motown singles. Otis Redding, of course, is not obscure. He’s one of the giants of soul music. But I’ve never heard of The Shooters, and I can’t find very much information about this song except that it’s one of the very first songs Redding ever wrote. This single – which sounds more like a demo – was released a year before Redding’s own solo debut. And that’s the extent of my information, because apparently the deep soul fandom skews old and apathetic towards technology and therefore isn’t flooding Wikipedia with new edits. Suffice it to say that even the long-forgotten artifacts of Motown’s heyday are gems worth discovering, and at the risk of sounding like a fogey, they really don’t make ’em like that anymore.
The Rolling Stones vs. Otis Redding. Which one do you like better? On one hand The Stones’ version has that raw garage band oomph that made their earliest recordings the precursors of punk. On the other hand, they were really wet behind the ears and had no grasp of nuance, whereas Redding was a master vocalist working with Motown’s finest professionals. Redding’s emotional gravitas is clearly head and shoulders above anything Mick Jagger could muster. Redding could give the simplest song real pain and soul. What the Stones offered was their glamour, not so much artful music but an invitation to a whole new way of being. But why choose? A great song can serve many purposes depending on who plays it and how. A Rolling Stones record and an Otis Redding record exist to fill different needs, and the same song can become, essentially, two different songs.