When the plane carrying Otis Redding and his band crashed into Lake Monona, I was living in Boston. I was sharing a basement apartment on 1292 Commonwealth Avenue with a roommate named Jeannie who was was rarely there. She usually stayed with a boyfriend who attended one of the many colleges in the area. But on the morning of December 11, 1967 she awakened me screaming, "Otis fell into your lake last night!"
Even after I was fully awake, I really didn't understand the depth of her sorrow and anger because Otis Redding just wasn't a name I recognized. A few weeks later, I moved back to Madison in time to celebrate Christmas with my family. The moving van with my clothes didn't arrive until the middle of January.
Otis Redding and his music really didn't register with me until a few years later, when my friend Jonathan introduced me to the splendid Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which was performing at the Wisconsin Union Theater. I was spellbound. After that initial introduction, I went to see Ailey's company perform whenever I could. I saw them in Chicago and New York. I saw them when then returned to Madison. And somewhere along the way, Alvin Ailey introduced me to the music of Otis Redding via choreographer George Faison's "Suite Otis," which premiered in 1971, and which originally featured some of the company's all-time greatest dancers, including Ulysses Dove, Masazumi Chaya, and the sassy, unforgettable Marilyn Banks.
The six songs in "Suite Otis" are the ones I know best, the ones I play most often when I put my Otis Redding LP on the record player or a disk in my CD player. And of those six songs, the most familiar, the most often played is "Try a Little Tenderness." You can listen to a rendition of it from Otis Redding's 1967 Stax Tour of Europe on the You Tube video below:
The Friday after Thanksgiving, I went to the Monona Terrace Convention Center with plans to take a photograph of the Otis Redding Memorial on the William T. Evjue Rooftop Garden. But as I noted in an earlier post, the entire facility was closed.
This past Friday, I made a return trip to Monona Terrace. Although the building was open, there was no access to the Rooftop Garden. Sadly, you may not be able to visit the Otis Redding Memorial until next year.
I talked to one of the building managers and learned the Rooftop Garden is usually closed all winter. Large sections of the floor of the Rooftop Garden are covered with commemorative tiles (with the names of donors to the convention center) made from materials easily damaged by snow removal equipment. When the Rooftop Garden is covered with snow and ice that can't be removed because of concerns about damaging the tiles, it is kept closed to the public because of safety and liability concerns. Driving rain and high winds are also reasons for closing the Rooftop Garden.
Emulating my heroine, Brenda Starr, I managed to persuade a building manager to let me see (and photograph) the current condition of the Rooftop Garden. It was treacherous up there. It may not seem like it from the photos, but it's very icy -- and there's really little hope that recent slightly warmer weather will melt it all away any time soon. Here's what it looked like on Friday:
And since you might want to read the words on the stone that sits on the ground in front of the Otis Redding Memorial, here's a photo of that, too:
Next year will be the 40th anniversary of Redding's death and since the media seem to favor numbers divisible by ten (or sometimes five), you'll probably see and hear a lot more about Otis Redding in Madison in 2007. But if you want to pay your respects, you'll have to schedule a visit to the Otis Redding Memorial for a sunny day when snow is just a memory.
Complete set (1924-1926) online at Dane County Historical Society
Accessing The Madison Mirror online at the DCHS
Before you click on over to the DCHS site to view the online versions of The Madison Mirror, a few words of advice/wisdom/caution:
(1) The link in the middle of the "I Remember Madison Central High" page for title "Read The Madison Mirror" doesn't work; use the one in the sidebar ("View The Madison Mirror") instead.
(2) When you click on the "View The Madison Mirror" link, you'll reach a 32-page PDF document with a list of links to the issues of The Madison Mirror in chronological order. This means you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer. Most people do, but if you don't have it, you'll have to install it. Use this link to Adobe for a free download (and uncheck the box for the free eBay Desktop before you start to save space on your hard drive).
(3) BE VERY CAREFUL: Many of the PDF files for individual issues of The Madison Mirror are HUGE. I've found some that are 12 MG. If you're still using a dial-up connect, you probably don't want to try to access any of these PDFs because it will take too long to open them. Even if you have a high-speed connection, you may find that you're unable to open some issues because of the size. Trying to do so may tie up your browser. Note: It's not just me (and I have DSL). Some other alumni have also been trying to open issues of particular interest to them and reported to me that they couldn't.