Simple lyrics, beautiful melody, achingly memorable voice. Otis Redding.
Some would say this was one of those songs about nothing. I disagree.
It was one of the few songs released posthumously, and his only number one record. It hit the Billboard charts in 1968, a few months after he died in a tragic plane crash in December 1967. He was only 26.
It has been written that the song was a big hit among soldiers serving in Vietnam. Something about the lyric: “Can’t do what 10 people tell me to do, So I guess I’ll remain the same “and “headed for the Frisco Bay”, a departure point for Vietnam. Veterans have said that the words had meaning for them as a source of comfort and even healing: “sittin’ here resting my bones, and this loneliness won’t leave me alone”; “Cause I’ve had nothing to live for, looks like nothin’s gonna come my way”.
For me, it was the theme song for a much needed mini vacation that I took a few years ago. I went alone; no husband, no kids, no friends. If you’ve never traveled alone, you might not understand this, but it was glorious. One of the best ever.
It was not a random itinerary, I had a destination. I booked a hotel room in a fishing port just on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. It had nothing more than a few hotels, boat docks and fresh seafood restaurants. I had passed it many times years before when we lived just north of Annapolis, Md.; usually on our way to the far more crowded and commercial Ocean City.
I left my good camera at home, this was not a photographic journey. I packed very few changes of clothing, it was late summer and the weather was fabulous. What I did take was my black and white marble notebook; one that I had started writing in a few years before.
I ate, mostly fresh fish; I slept, on my own distorted schedule; I wrote; slept some more; wrote again. And I sat ; literally on the dock of that bay, wasting time; like I hadn’t done since childhood. There was no schedule, no deadline, no marketing plan or financial report, nothing that had preoccupied me for many years.
There was just me, and a few quality ball point pens, my notebook, and the sound of the waves crashing along the bay. It was heaven. I did some of my most creative writing during those 4 days, and dedicated an entire page to Otis’s treasured lyrics.
A song about nothing. Indeed.