Listen to a 26-Year-Old Otis Redding Sing the Greatest Soul Christmas Song

Listen to a 26-Year-Old Otis Redding Sing the Greatest Soul Christmas Song

Otis Redding died on December 10, 1967, when his private plane crashed into Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin. He was 26-years-old, and had recorded "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" three days before the crash.

A year after his death, his label released "Merry Christmas, Baby."


The song was written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore, and first made famous by Charles Brown (not of the Vince Guaraldi fame). Brown's version is a sleepier, bluesier version. Redding's, true to form, is a joyous track driven by a rollicking organ line and some barely on-time sleigh bells. It's sloppy and uplifting.


Soul, funk, and R&B have yielded some excellent Christmas music because the genres are so well-suited to conveying joy. The best tracks, like "Merry Christmas, Baby" or "This Christmas," are never quite as somnulent as records like Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" or Dean Martin's "Christmas Blues," which are more like Christmas drugs than calls to celebration.

Those genres, however, have also given us some of the worst Christmas music out there. And, given the field, that's pretty impressive. The worst tracks have cheap, glitzy production, and soul sounds but very little life. This is perhaps best illustrated by James Brown's horrifying "Funky Millenium Christmas":


For artists like Brown, Christmas albums are quick money-makers. But it's worth remembering Otis Redding today, on the anniversary of his death, for this song which passed relatively unnoticed even after "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" became a hit. Redding sings this one as well as any of his songs. Life is pretty great for his character in the song — "Everything here is beautiful," he sings at the end. Yet he delivers every note with a full range of his emotions. As in his best performances, there's a husk of sorrow around each joyful note.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Ben Naddaff-Hafrey

Ben moved to NYC in October. He is currently the editor of the Mic Music section. He graduated from Harvard in 2013 with a degree in American History & Literature and a secondary in Mind/Brain/Behavior. Outside of work, he is an active musician.

MORE FROM

‘The Vampire Diaries’ ending could be what saves ‘The Originals’

The end of 'The Vampire Diaries' could mean a new beginning for 'The Originals.'

Let’s needlessly overthink these ‘Game of Thrones’ photos from “Stormborn”

Sam's still at the Citadel, looking miserable.

BBC just shut down every misogynist mad about a female Doctor Who

The Doctor was always destined to become a woman.

Noah Hawley is a busy man. Here’s a running list of everything he’s working on.

I hope he finds time to, like, sleep and be with family.

19 must-see panels and events at San Diego Comic-Con this year

Comic-Con can be overwhelming. This list will give you the highlights.

Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Shape of Water’ looks like ‘Okja’ with fish-people

A trailer for Guillermo del Toro's next movie touches on animal rights themes.

‘The Vampire Diaries’ ending could be what saves ‘The Originals’

The end of 'The Vampire Diaries' could mean a new beginning for 'The Originals.'

Let’s needlessly overthink these ‘Game of Thrones’ photos from “Stormborn”

Sam's still at the Citadel, looking miserable.

BBC just shut down every misogynist mad about a female Doctor Who

The Doctor was always destined to become a woman.

Noah Hawley is a busy man. Here’s a running list of everything he’s working on.

I hope he finds time to, like, sleep and be with family.

19 must-see panels and events at San Diego Comic-Con this year

Comic-Con can be overwhelming. This list will give you the highlights.

Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Shape of Water’ looks like ‘Okja’ with fish-people

A trailer for Guillermo del Toro's next movie touches on animal rights themes.