I couldn’t tell you when it happened. I don’t remember the first time I heard the song. But somewhere along the way,(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding (and his guitarist, Stever Cropper) crept into my everyday and became the backbone to the dreams in my fray.

Growing up, when kids were listening to sh**y pop culture music, I was listening to our parents’ and grandparents’ sh**y pop culture music. A blessing, because it cut my musical discovery by a generation. I skipped straight to Motown and the Beatles. And from them, deeper soul and blues.

Atlantic soul artists like Ray, Aretha, and this boy, Otis.

Some time during the summer after I left Denom U – it couldn’t have been much after my mama’s mama passed, the song slipped onto my lips during valet pickups at the boat. I found myself singing it over and over again. It was probably because I was spending that summer working in a parking lot along a dock where a casino boat rolled in and out all night long. No matter how many times we saw that thing docked, It still made for beautiful summer evenings.

That fall, when I bought my first guitar, (Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay was one of the first I wanted to learn. Unfortunately, it took years of getting over my fear of playing to figure out the damned walkdown in the verse. I had to settle for “Day Tripper,” instead.

(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay eventually became a staple to all my mix CDs and playlists and was one of the first songs I’d want to play when playing guitar with people.

It wasn’t until later when I truly appreciated the irony of the song

It’s starts in the bridge:

Look like nothing’s gonna change
Everything still remains the same

So the story goes, 1967 and Otis was as high as he’d ever been in his music career when he was sitting on a house boat in Sausalito, CA remarking about the ships rolling in.

Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch ’em roll away again, yeah

The beautiful part to the whole thing is that simple plea…nothing’s gonna change. Even after his stirring performance at the Monterrey Pop Festival, Otis didn’t see anything changing.

Later on he recorded the ballad as well as “Hard to Handle,” and other classics during a session at the Stax in Memphis. Then at the end of 1967, Otis performed a gig in Madison, WI, and didn’t survive the plane ride home.

Musicians should never charter flights in Wisconsin.

(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay was released the following month and became the only #1 Billboard hit Otis Redding would ever have. Only after he passed did his career his super-stardom.

The only thing I can’t figure out was whether or not it was poetic destiny or a cosmic coincidence.

So, yeah, Otis Redding’s immortal (Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay canonized itself to my life, and like Picasso’s Old Guitarist, it has to be a part of my web presence or I won’t feel comfortable.

Thousands upon thousands have recorded the song and have put it into their catalog. I haven’t liked many of them. Otis, despited his heart-pouring expression, he still kept it refined to the song. It seems as though most everyone else takes it as a license to to express even more. My ears cringe when I hear most anyone else do it.

Unfortunately, Otis didn’t have much a chance to sing the song live so I don’t know of a good live performance or I’d put it on here live. Here’s the best I can do:

(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay – Lyrics by Otis Redding and Steve Cropper

Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch ’em roll away again, yeah

I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

I left my home in Georgia
Headed for the ‘Frisco bay
‘Cause I’ve had nothing to live for
And look like nothin’s gonna come my way

So I’m just gonna sit on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

Look like nothing’s gonna change
Everything still remains the same
I can’t do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I’ll remain the same, yes

Sittin’ here resting my bones
And this loneliness won’t leave me alone
It’s two thousand miles I roamed
Just to make this dock my home

Now, I’m just gonna sit at the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Oooo-wee, sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

(whistle)


view of Golden Gate from the marina at Fort Baker, next to Sausalito


What’s your take on this song?

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