Song Lyric Sunday — Dock of the Bay

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday theme, Jim Adams has given us “lean,” “sit,” and “stand.” My first inclination was to go with “Lean On Me,” from Bill Withers. And then I thought about “Stand By Me” from Ben E. King. But ultimately I decided on “(Sitting on) The Dock of the Bay” from Otis Redding.

The song was co-written by Otis Redding and Steve Cropper. Redding ended up sitting on a dock on the San Francisco Bay thanks to Bill Graham, who ran the Fillmore West Auditorium. Redding played three shows there in December 1966 and Graham gave Redding a choice: he could stay at a hotel, or at a boathouse in nearby Sausalito. Redding liked the outdoors, so he chose the boathouse. He started writing the lyrics to the song while sitting on that rented houseboat in Sausalito, and completed the lyrics with the help of Cropper, the guitarist for Booker T. & the M.G.’s.

Redding died in a plane crash on December 10, 1967, a month before this song was released (January 8, 1968) and three days after he recorded it. After Redding’s death, Cropper mixed “Dock of the Bay” at Stax Studios. He added the sound of seagulls and waves crashing to the background, as Redding had requested, recalling the sounds he heard when he was staying on the houseboat.

The end of the song contains perhaps the most famous whistling in music history. It wasn’t planned, but when Redding started whistling at the end of the song, Cropper and Stax engineer Ronnie Capone heard it and knew it had to stay. Cropper said in an article, “Hey man, that’s great, leave that in there. It sure is a cool melody to go out with.”

“(Sitting on) The Dock of the Bay” was released on Stax Records’ Volt label in 1968, becoming the first posthumous single to top the charts in the US.

Here are the lyrics to the song.

Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ comes
Watching the ships roll in
Then I watch ’em roll away again, yeah
I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooh
I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

I left my home in Georgia
Headed for the Frisco Bay
‘Cause I’ve had nothin’ to live for
It look like nothin’s gonna come my way
So I’m just gon’ sitt on the dock of the bay
Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooh
I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

Look like nothing’s gonna change
Everything, still remains the same
I can’t do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I’ll remain the same, yes

Sittin’ here restin’ my bones
And this loneliness won’t leave me alone, listen
Two thousand miles, I roam
Just to make this dock my home
Now I’m just gon’ sit, at the dock of the bay
Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooh yeah
Sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

19 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — Dock of the Bay

  1. crushedcaramel October 20, 2019 / 4:52 am

    So many superb songs could fit this them. The three you mentioned are all gorgeous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango October 20, 2019 / 2:38 pm

      It’s a favorite of mine. I didn’t realize until I wrote this post that it wasn’t released until after his death.


  2. Jim Adams October 20, 2019 / 7:34 am

    Great choice Fandango. I always thought this song was a bit sad and now after reading your post it seems even more so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango October 20, 2019 / 2:39 pm

      Yes, I agree. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I never realized the song was released after his death.


  3. msjadeli October 20, 2019 / 2:33 pm

    It’s poetry and it stands the test of time. Good choice, Fandango!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. leigha66 October 20, 2019 / 9:50 pm

    I love this song! Actually all the songs you mentioned are great, but this is a favorite. I was not aware of the history of the song though.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Felicia Denise October 21, 2019 / 8:09 am

    Love this song! It was the first one this week’s prompt brought to mind. Great choice. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Marleen October 21, 2019 / 1:23 pm

    I really like this song, by this singer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango October 21, 2019 / 6:59 pm

      It’s too bad he was taken from us at the height of his career.


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