Christmas Songs: “Merry Christmas, Baby,” Otis Redding, 1968

There are so many versions of this 1947 song written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore. The one I heard on Muzak while working retail is Bruce Springsteen‘s. According to Wikipedia, “The original 1947 version by Johnny Moore’s Three Trailblazers (featuring singer/pianist Charles Brown (musician), is the definitive version of this song.” This version by Otis Redding was released posthumously.

The wreckage of the plane that carried Otis Redding, the pilot, and four members of the Bar Kays to their deaths (Courtesy:  L. Roger Turner/WI State Journal)

The wreckage of the plane that carried Otis Redding, the pilot, and four members of the Bar Kays to their deaths (Courtesy: L. Roger Turner/WI State Journal)

I settled on this one, simply because of its Madison connection. Because Otis Redding, 27, died here, along with four teenage members of the Bar-Kays, his backup group, in Madison, WI on December 10, 1967. His twin-engine plane fell into Lake Monona in a crash that vies with the crash of the plane that carried Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens in 1959.

The body of Otis Redding being recovered out of the icy waters of Lake Monona in Madison, WI; he was still strapped in his seat (Courtesy: StreamingOldies.com)

The body of Otis Redding being recovered out of the icy waters of Lake Monona in Madison, WI; he was still strapped in his seat (Courtesy: StreamingOldies.com)

Otis Redding was also a songwriter. It was he who wrote the song, “Respect,” that later made Aretha Franklin the iconic Queen of Soul. Understand that Redding recorded “Respect” in the male voice, but Franklin’s rendition made it almost a womanist text about emotional and sensual equality in relationships long past the wedding and the ring.

Another view of the recovery efforts in Lake Monona after Otis Redding's plane crashed (Courtesy: Angelfire.com)

Another view of the recovery efforts in Lake Monona after Otis Redding’s plane crashed (Courtesy: Angelfire.com)

From Alan Walden’s website:

Otis always took pride in not missing an engagement. In December of 1967 he was advised not to fly from Cleveland, Ohio to Madison, Wisconsin because of bad weather. He didn’t want to disappoint his fans and took off anyway leaving with the words, “Gotta make that dollar.” His plane crashed upon approach to the airport (what is now Dane County Regional Airport) and all were killed but Ben Cauley. The plane crashed into a bay. Ben was the only one in the plane that could not swim and also did not have his seat belt on. Had he stayed in the icy water a few minutes longer he would have frozen to death.

The plaque at Monona Terrace commemorating Redding's death (Courtesy: SurroundedByReality.com)

The plaque at Monona Terrace commemorating Redding’s death (Courtesy: SurroundedByReality.com)

Walden was wrong.   The plane crashed into the icy, partly-frozen Lake Monona. And Otis, thinking of his Madison fans instead of his own safety, was found still strapped in the co-pilot’s chair.

The lyrics, as sung by Redding (understand that at times, some singers insert their own interpretations of the words into their versions):

Merry Christmas baby
Sure do treat me nice
Merry Christmas baby
Sure do treat me nice
Bought me a diamond ring for Christmas
I feel like I’m in paradise

I feel mighty fine, y’all
I’ve got music on my radio
Feel mighty fine, girl
I’ve got music on my radio, oh, oh, oh
I feel like I’m gonna kiss you
Standing beneath that mistletoe

Santa came down the chimney
Half past three, y’all
Left all them good ole presents
For my baby and for me, ha, ha, ha

Merry Christmas baby
Sure do treat me nice
You bought me all those good ole presents
I love you baby rest of my life

Merry Christmas, girl
Merry, merry, merry Christmas baby
Sure do treat me nice
Merry Christmas baby
I said you sure do treat me nice
You bought all those lovely things, yeah
I feel like I’m in paradise

I wish you a merry Christmas baby
Happy new year, ha
A merry Christmas, honey
Everything here is beautiful
I love you, baby
For everything that you give me
I love you, honey…

If he had lived, Otis Redding would have been 69 years old. To me, he–as well as Al Green–was the epitome of male soul: life-affirming and blues-exuberant even in sadness, and from a working man’s ethos and sweat and heart. Redding had his feet on the ground–and you can say in the soil–of black Southern music.

Love you, Otis. Merry Christmas, everyone.

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~ by blksista on December 25, 2010.

36 Responses to “Christmas Songs: “Merry Christmas, Baby,” Otis Redding, 1968”

  1. Music has a mystic manner of being able to take you instantly back to a specific place and time in your past
    I will definitely vote them, for one reason…. THEY’RE AWESOME

  2. I loved this song by the Soul King,thanks for the sharing this post.keep it up.

  3. I didn’t realise he died so young! I have some of his music, and love this song.

  4. harika teşekkürler

  5. Otis Redding is monumental and all one needs to do is listen to “Try a Little Tenderness” to know that.

  6. A long time hero of mine. A fitting remembrance…

  7. All the oldies music and songs are the best.they will last because they were from the heart

  8. I never knew about this song although I knew about Otis Redding. Thanks for helping the rest of us find it and giving back ground on Otis.

  9. im glad you got freshly pressed…now more people know about the tragic story of otis redding. and you covered it in a wonderful way. thanks.

    http://dearexgirlfriend.com

  10. I really had no idea Otis Redding died so young…fascinating!

    Great post — a truly fun read. :)

  11. Excellent!!!!! Keep it up.

  12. really good post, it made me think!

    thanks

    check out my blog – it’s brand new!!

    http://urbanoptimist.wordpress.com/

    lovess

    xxx

  13. I always enjoy hearing the story behind the song. Nice post!

  14. thanks for putting some soul into my holiday play list. Otis lives on when we play the tunes and tell the stories. Nice post!

  15. You just took me back to when my mom would play Christmas music on the radio. I remember her shaken her hips to this one, mouth moving to the words, head tipping to the music. It was hilarious!

    Thank you so much.

  16. Hey!
    It’s nice to see that another sista is writing about Christmas music. Thanks!

  17. Thank you very much, I loved this song by the Soul King, Ottis was one of my favorite singers when I was a young boy in Spain, where SOUL arrived from USA in the 60 ´s

  18. Thank you for sharing this, sister. I almost wrote something about Otis yesterday in my blog category “What the world needs now.” But, I was listening to “Can’t Turn You Loose” which didn’t seem to fit for the time of year lol. I’d forgotten about his Christmas song.

    Your blog is great. I’ll be coming back. Best wishes for the new year!
    simonebenedict.wordpress.com

  19. Very interesting post! I had never thought about that song so much! Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas!

    http://bofadeez.blogspot.com/2010/12/happy-holidays.html

  20. Very good song <3

  21. That’s so sad, I honestly had no idea Otis died at such a young age. At least we got to experience his music for the little time we had with him.

  22. I love your blog. The design is beautiful and your color scheme is spectacular. It made the cover for wordpress.coms site. Nice Job!

  23. I love “Respect”. Didn’t know Otis Redding had written it. Thanks for the history AND the song. :)

  24. My dad was a huge Otis Reading fan and yet I never heard this one before. Thanks for sharing!

  25. A long time hero of mine. A fitting remembrance…

  26. A beautiful display regarding a great song from a great artist. We all can only hope to have as much soul as individuals. A blessed Christmas to you and yours.

  27. Love Otis. Merry Christmas.

  28. It’s a beautiful song, it’s just a shame that we don’t have any music like this today.

  29. Thanks for this wonderful treat!! I have always loved Otis Reading. He died when I was a freshman in college… I will always remember the day I heard the news. Merry Christmas to you and to Otis, our beloved Otis!!!!!!!!

  30. This is a great blog!

    It’s difficult to navigate the minefield of Christmas songs: I’ve very recently capitulated to listening to Wham! and Mariah Carey on repeat but, if I’m honest, they have nothing on Otis.

    Geist Bites

  31. Really great blog. Love Faith Evans’ (a little overembellished) Version and B.B. King’s version, too.

  32. He did sing good. Merry Christmas.

  33. It’s always so sad to read about events like these. We lose such talented people at so young of an age. Makes you really appreciate everything in your own life so much more. Thanks for posting this, and have a Merry Christmas! Congrats on FP!

    http://miracleon32ndstreet.wordpress.com

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