by Ray McDonald
Tuesday of this week — January 8, 2013 — presented a convergence of three very different but significant events.
First, it was the day that would have been Elvis Presley’s 78th birthday. “The King,” as he was known, was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935, and moved to Memphis, Tennessee at age 13. He died at age 42 on August 16, 1977. As they do every year, fans from all over the world gathered at his Graceland mansion Tuesday. Hundreds of Elvis devotees watched as 13-year-old Isabella Scott cut a birthday cake on the Graceland lawn. Isabella heads an Internet-based Elvis fan club with more than two-thousand members. In case you couldn’t make it, here’s a video of the celebration at Graceland.
January 8, 2013 also marked the 45th anniversary of one of pop music’s greatest songs. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” was to be the beginning of a new phase of Otis Redding’s career. Instead, it became a memorial to his genius. Otis, one of the most popular soul singers of his era, had introduced himself to a new audience at the June, 1967 Monterey Pop Festival in California. The seeds for this song were planted as he relaxed on a houseboat that summer in Sausalito, a town in the San Francisco Bay area. Otis recorded the song in Memphis in November, 1967, adding overdubs on December 8. Two days later, he died in an airplane crash in Wisconsin. His record company rushed to release the single on January 8, 1968. The disc featured Otis whistling at the end, which had only been meant as a placeholder. He had intended to add lyrics at a later date. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” became his first number one pop hit, sold four million copies, and entered the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998. I was eight years old when I first heard it. It mesmerized me, and continues to haunt me to this day.
Finally, last Tuesday brought an out-of-nowhere surprise: David Bowie was back. The Rock Hall of Famer – who’s sold an estimated 140 million albums – virtually dropped from sight following his last live performance in 2006. On Tuesday, which also happened to be his 66th birthday, Bowie released “Where Are We Now?,” a wistful look back at his mid-70s sojourn in Berlin. Recorded in secret with his long-time collaborator Tony Visconti, it’s the lead single from his forthcoming album “The Next Day,” due in March. It already tops the iTunes album charts in 17 countries with advance orders.