Otis Redding's 10 greatest songs ever, ranked

30 June 2021, 18:02

Otis Redding in 1967
Otis Redding in 1967. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Otis Redding was one of the greatest vocal talents of all time, and was tragically taken from us far too early.

Aged just 26 at the time of his death in a plane crash, in a very small period of time he managed to record a hugely impressive number of records that inspired countless artists for decades to come.

Here are some of his very best songs, to make for a perfect Otis Redding playlist:

  1. Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)

    Only Otis Redding could not only get away with singing "fa-fa-fa-fa-fa" over and over, but also make it sound soulful and cool.

    It was supposedly one of Redding's favourite songs, and is a classic call-and-response between the soul icon and his horn section.

  2. White Christmas

    So many people have covered Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas', but we'd argue that Otis Redding may have recorded the greatest ever.

    Memorably used in Love Actually, Redding's version has a certain melancholic yet hopeful quality to it that is so enduring.

  3. My Girl

    One of the greatest soul albums of all time is undoubtedly Redding's Otis Blue, which was mostly a collection of contemporary covers of big soul hits.

    Thus, it's a pure joy to hear Redding's takeen on 'My Girl' by The Temptations, giving it an extra piece of gravitas.

  4. Cigarettes and Coffee

    This was one of the most memorable songs from his fourth LP, The Soul Album.

    The ballad sees Otis staying up into the early hours with his partner, and is a perfect example of his easy crooning style.

  5. Mr Pitiful

    This upbeat anthem was Redding's first collaboration with guitarist Steve Cropper. It was written as a cheeky response to a statement made by DJ Moohah Williams, when he nicknamed Redding as 'Mr. Pitiful', due to sounding as such when singing ballads.

    Cropper heard this and came up with the idea to write a song with that name when taking a shower. He asked Redding in a car what he thought, and soon after they recorded the song in just 10 minutes.

  6. I've Been Loving You Too Long

    The ultimate slow dance anthem, with Otis Redding's voice on top form.

    One of the few original songs from Otis Blue, it sees him plead for his former lover to return, while the horns help him along. Stunning.

  7. Hard to Handle

    This was originally released in 1968 as the B-side to 'Amen', soon after the singer's sudden death in late 1967.

    It had a new lease of life after it received an excellent cover by The Black Crowes in the 1990s.

  8. These Arms of Mine

    This self-written song was what got Otis Redding signed on the spot by record label Stax at his audition.

    The heartfelt ballad was his first single, and became one of his defining tracks.

  9. Try a Little Tenderness

    Originally an easy-listening ballad from the 1930s, Otis teamed up with Booker T and the MGs and Isaac Hayes on this incredible version.

    Redding's recording starts as a slow ballad which eventually builds into a fast-pace R&B anthem, complete with the words "sock it to me."

  10. (Sittin' on the) Dock of the Bay

    This anthem for laid-back relaxation was recorded just weeks before Otis Redding tragically died, and gave him a massive posthumous hit around the world.

    Read more: The Story of... 'Dock of the Bay'

    It's heartbreaking to think what he still had in the locker after hearing this, but we're so glad we got to hear its everlasting beauty.