In 1968, speaking on the steps of St Mary's Hospital in Madison, Wisconson, Otis Ray Redding, Jr shocked the crowd of fans who been anticipating his release by announcing that he was "planning to leave this world" of music.
King of SoulFive of the six members of Redding's backup band, "The Bar-Kays" had been killed when his twin engine Beechcraft plane crashed into the icy waters of the Squaw Bay area of Lake Monona on December 10th.
He had swapped seats with Ben Cauley and was sitting directly behind the co-pilot's seat before falling asleep on the flight clutching his seat cushion. He awoke when he realized he could not breathe. He said that he then saw band mate Phalon Jones look out of a window and say "Oh, no". He unbuckled his safety belt which ultimately allowed him to separate himself from the wreckage. As the impact tore a wing off the small Beechcraft, the fuselage was torn open and Redding was able to bob to the surface as he clutched his seat cushion. Bassist James Alexander survived because he had taken a different flight as there was not enough room left on the plane.
He had been warning fellow artists that he was "planning to leave this world", which seemed on first listening to be the meaning of "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" recorded only three days prior to the crash. During his recovery, Redding had experienced something of a religious awakening, deciding that he would seek a new life in Christ.
During the ninteen seventies, he would lead a spiritual revivalist movement that would electrify America. When he left office in 1977, President Robert F. Kennedy would pay tribute to Redding for his pivotal role in "binding up the wounds among us to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again".
Click to listen to Kennedy's "Mindless Menace of Violence" Speech.