Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life, a new biography of the revered soul singer by Jonathan Gould, has been published this week by Crown Archetype. Its release is timed to mark the 50th anniversary of his famous performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, which caused Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, as quoted in the book, to say “I was pretty sure that I'd seen God onstage.”
The new portrait follows Gould's last book, Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America. His portrayal of Redding goes beyond the familiar story of his rise to prominence and premature death in a plane crash at the age of just 26. It sets the scene of the racially segregated Southern States and describes the singer's relationship with his manager, Phil Walden; it also describes his modus operandi as a “head arranger,” describing the instrumental parts he wanted musicians to play on his sessions.
The book also reveals that, during the period of his artistic expansion in 1967, Redding spent several months recovering from a throat operation by listening constantly not to his soul peers, but to The Beatles' newly-released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
As An Unfinished Life points out, there was little journalistic analysis of Redding's work while he was alive, since he “lived and died before the advent of rock journalism in America.” Gould then explains that “Few of [his] records of live performances were reviewed in any depth, and the only substantial interview with him was published in the teen magazine Hit Parader in 1967.”
After Peter Guralnick's 1986 book Sweet Soul Music drew the outline of his life, Gould's new volume is, as he says, “an effort to do justice to Otis Redding's remarkable musical career, and to the life and times of the gifted and determined young man who was both its author and its protagonist.”|