David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 247: Otis Redding (Try A Little Tenderness)

April 30, 2023

When an artist dies in their prime, there is a small group of people, usually, who can say they saw his or her last performance. One such performance, captured on YouTube is of Otis Redding from December 9, 1967, in Cleveland, Ohio. Redding's tragic passing the next day is often memorialized by the posthumous release of "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay," which Redding had recorded on December 7, 1967.

This December 9th performance doesn't have that song, of course, but instead features a truly remarkable rendition of "Try A Little Tenderness," his second highest charting song at the time. My link below is to this performance, showcasing his stage presence, and vocal range, especially on the memorable coda. For those you youngsters out there, that ending will explain Donkey's speech to Shrek before the latter storms the altar to rescue Fiona from her ill-fated marriage, and why every parent in the audience laughed so loudly.

What's additionally fascinating about this week of December, 1967, is that a few days after Redding's performance, The Who release The Who Sell Out, their outright proclamation for a marriage of rock and roll and advertising. And if Redding hadn't died, I have no doubt as video of Redding's "Try A Little Tenderness" worked its way across the pond, Yves Saint Laurent would have been calling Redding's agent for a deal.

The phone call that never happened between Saint Laurent and Estelle Axton, co-founder of STAX Records:

Daisy {Axton's Administrative Assistant}: Hello, Estelle Axton's Office. How may I help you?

Yves: Hello, this is Yves Saint Laurent. I would like to talk to Miss Axton about an opportunity.

Daisy: Eva?  You don't sound like a girl.

Yves: Yes, Eva, it's a French name, you backwoods hick. Get me Miss Axton.

Daisy: She's busy. I need more information. Who are you, Eva?

Yves: The fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent, although I suspect your fashion sense begins and ends with your bellbottoms.

Daisy: How did you guess? No, don't tell me. I am sorry Eva, but she is not available.

Yves: Look, you little trollop, if you don't connect me with her right now, all the money lost to STAX records and Mr. Redding is on your head.

Daisy: Mr. Redding? You mean Otis. Oh my, he is so fine. But, what would Mr. Redding want to do with your fashion line, Eva?

Estelle {Upon walking through the office and overhearing the exchange}  Give me the phone, Daisy.  Hello, this is Estelle. How can I help you?

Yves: Oh, mon dieu. Estelle, darling, Yves Saint Laurent. We met at Catherine Deneuve's little soiree in New York last year.

Estelle: Yves, of course I remember you. In fact, I am wearing that cute little Piet Mondrain-inspired cocktail dress you put out last year.

Yves: A cocktail dress at the office. Say it isn't so, Estelle.

Estelle: What can I say? I really dig it. So, it sounds like you were telling my receptionist about a connection with Otis Redding.

Yves: Yeah, I just saw a clip of him from a show last week where he's doing "Try A Little Tenderness."

Estelle: Oh, yeah, he's magnificent.

Yves: Of course, he is. To take that boring Sinatra song, a cover of a Bing Crosby song, and take it all out of Snoozeville 1952. Even when he released it, he was great, but this live version really amped it up. So much so, that I want to see if he will work with me for some product tie-ins.

Estelle: Ooh, we would be honored. Such as what?

Yves: Well, first off, his change from the weary woman wearing the "shabby dress" in the opening to wearing a "mini-skirt" dress could be our tagline for transforming the dreadfully droll girl into the sexy, stylish lass. The kind of transition I am guessing that receptionist of yours could use.

Estelle {Eyeing up Daisy who is filing her nails} Oh, Yves, I don't think you're that good.

Yves: Hah, never underestimate me. Beyond that, I want to put his backup band in something more stylish than prison uniforms. What the hell are all of you thinking with that look?

Estelle: Hey, not everyone can look as good as Smokey and the Miracles. We're not Motown, we're more down low-town.

Yves: Whatever?  With Yves all over you, you can be Mo-Motown.

Estelle: I don't know, Yves. This isn't the cocaine talking again, is it?

Yves: Well, that does remind me, I'm due at Ciro's Le Disc in 15 minutes. Call me in the morning and let me know. I don't want to put pressure on you, but we got some Dunhill Records' guy speed-dialing us asking for this for some band they represent. They tell us that the "shabby dress" becomes a "funky dress."

Estelle: "Funky dress?" Ooh, that could be good. What soul group is reaching into our territory?

Yves: Oh, I doubt there is much soul. Some group that calls themselves Three Dog Night. Like Yves wants to be associated with one dog, let alone three.

Estelle: I hear you. O.k., I'll talk with Otis and we'll get back to you tomorrow.

Yves: Do that, honey. We're going make millions of dollars, baby.

Sadly, we will never know how this could have played out.

Otis Redding. "Try A Little Tenderness." Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul. STAX, 1966. Live link here.

Day 246: The Sugarcubes "Birthday"

Day 248: Concrete Blonde "Tomorrow, Wendy"

See complete list here.