Chuck Leavell was a high school student in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1967 when Otis Redding died in a plane crash.
Leavell, who would go on to become a keyboardist for the Rolling Stones and the Allman Brothers Band, vividly remembers getting the news when he arrived at school.
“I got to the auditorium that morning to check in and everybody was upset and crying,” he said. “I’ll just never forget it. He was a great, great artist. … Everybody loved Otis Redding.”
Leavell was among a group of musicians who performed in a tribute concert at Macon City Auditorium on Sunday to recognize what would have been Redding’s 75th birthday. He was 26 when he died.
Redding transcended race and genre to develop a wide following and become known as the “King of Soul.” Justin Andrews, who is Redding’s grandson, said it was fitting to have such a wide range of musicians perform in the concert dubbed “An Evening of Respect.” The performers included two of Redding’s sons, Otis Redding III and Dexter, as well as Macon violinist Robert McDuffie. Others were St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Eddie Floyd and Otis Redding’s guitarist and writing partner, Steve Cropper.
“Otis Redding was so broad in his music,” Andrews said. “Otis Redding touches everyone, from rap to rock to country, from blues to jazz.”
The concert benefited the Otis Redding Foundation, which promotes arts and humanities education for youth.
Andrews said there was more to his grandfather than music.
“He was a businessman,” Andrews said. “He had five businesses when he died.”
Dexter Redding was 6 years old when his father died. He remembers that day well, but said it took some time for him to understand what had happened and the impact that his father had.
He said it means a lot of him to see people coming together to pay tribute to his father.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “It just goes to show you how powerful he was as an artist and how powerful the music is today. After all these years the music still lives on.”