Otis Redding


Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Otis Redding – “That’s How Strong My Love Is” from The Very Best of Otis Redding, Volume One (1992 Rhino), originally appearing on The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads (1965 Volt/Atco)

Photo of Otis Redding

The following song is not the song in question:

I include it here for a number of reasons: 1) There is a section of the song that heavily features Otis Redding, both in a sample from a Stay in School spot Otis did, and also lyrically 2) None of which is necessarily relevant, except that it’s important to remember that, even when writing about Otis Redding or whomever, this is a blog written by a punk, and that stuff seeps in sometimes. 3) Besides, I remember reading an interview with D4 way back when in which they talked about their love for pre-1964 (I think) soul.

Someday soon maybe we’ll get to further take “Doublewhiskeycokenoice” apart, but in the meantime, we’re here to talk about how strong Otis’ love is. His love for the song must have been strong immediately; this is a cover that had only been recorded once the year before Otis got to it (written by Memphis’ Roosevelt Jamison and recorded by southern soul man O.V. Wright). The original O.V. Wright recording is pretty different:

It’s definitely lovely, but since I’m hearing it for the first time as I type, I guess I’m glad that, since the song has come to be associated with Otis Redding, he at least made it his own. They’re almost completely different songs. But damn, this one is pretty damn good. It’s a shame none of us have ever heard it, let alone heard of O.V. (Overton Vertis) Wright.

Otis’ version has traded some of the more real deal nitty gritty soul for a bit more definiton — where Wright’s version sounds a bit as though we’re both coming in and out mid-revery, Redding’s sounds more like a proper pop song. That’s not to say that it isn’t soulful; hardly. It’s not terribly difficult to envision a smoke-filled club, the small stage filled with gold sequins, ladies fighting their way to the front to get a glimpse of Otis. Okay, I’m still watching an awful lot of Treme, so maybe that’s where that came from, but I guess maybe I’d say that the Otis Redding version has a bit more of a doo-wop influence.

But when it punches, lookout! The snare drum tests the limits of the microphones, Otis lets loose with wild abandon, and then, just at the perfect time, everything pulls back. People talk about soul music being simplistic — Roddy Doyle wrote a book about it — but to really capture an emotion the way that this recording does is something special.

Here’s to O.V., here’s to Otis.

Oh, and you didn’t ask, but given the choice between Motown and Stax, I’ll choose southern soul every time.