Otis’s Five Magnificent Years

Geoffrey O’Brien writes: ‘Half a century has passed since the shocking disappearance of Otis Redding at age twenty-six, when the twin-engine Beechcraft carrying him and most of his touring band the Bar-Kays to a concert crashed in a Wisconsin lake on December 10, 1967. For many who were around then, the time elapsed has not alleviated the shock. The subtitle of Jonathan Gould’s new biography, “An Unfinished Life,” properly acknowledges the pang of lost possibilities that accompanied that news bulletin. It came at

a time of much violence and protest against violence, and was followed soon enough by further catastrophic losses. In the midst of all that, it was hard to give any meaning to Otis’s death beyond random bad luck—although that didn’t stop the inevitable rumors of conspiracy and murder for political or financial reasons.’

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