Otis Redding still honored in hometown

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Trey Smith / Cluster Staff

Trey Smith / Cluster Staff
Trey Smith / Cluster Staff

The month of September marks the celebration of Georgia Music Month. Macon is a rich source of music history.

Macon serves as a home to The Allman Brothers Band, members of R.E.M., Little Richard, Otis Redding and many other talents. On Sept. 9, Macon celebrated the late Otis Redding’s 72nd birthday.

Otis Redding is one of Macon’s most recognized musical figures. He made a name for himself through musical hits such as “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay,” “These Arms of Mine,” and “Dreams to Remember.”

In celebration of Redding’s birthday, the city of Macon named one of its trolley cars “Dreams” after his song “Dreams to Remember,” a song that he co-wrote with his wife Zelma Redding.

Leila Reagan-Porter, who works with the Otis Redding Foundation, said, “Music is such a huge part of our heritage in Macon, and it’s so easily forgotten when we are always looking for the next big thing.

“Legends like Otis Redding helped shape a city, a region, a sound, an era – and all these things shape who we are today,” she said, while explaining the importance of remembering Macon’s “King of Soul.”

Redding believed that an empowered youth population would help the community rise to a higher standard and quality of life. In 2007 Redding’s wife established the organization “The Big ‘O’ Youth Educational Dream Foundation” and later changed the name to “The Otis Redding Foundation.”

The Otis Redding Foundation is dedicated to help individuals pursue an education in the field of music. The foundation provides opportunities through music programs and scholarships.

The foundation was established to be rooted in, and carry on, the message of Redding’s life-long passion for music. Educational awareness programs have been chartered through the Otis Redding Foundation and encourage choices that provide opportunities to enhance participants’ lives.

In Reagan-Porter’s article “The Business of Otis Redding: How, in Only Six Years, The King of Soul Created a Legacy That Still Lasts and Lasts,” she quotes Zelma Redding, describing her husband: “He started giving scholarships early in his career. He started having underprivileged kids at our house, back in 1966, who didn’t have anything,” Zelma said. “He was going to have the bus to bring them out annually and let them enjoy a day at our ranch. Giving back. That’s what life was about to Otis. Not being selfish and crazy.”

The Otis Redding Foundation has found ways to give back to the Macon community, mostly in ways that tie back to music education.

“From the annual Singer/Songwriter Camp, to the Foundation’s adopted school of Bruce Elementary, to the success of young musicians like conductor Roderick Cox (assistant conductor of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and music director of the Alabama Symphony Youth Orchestra), the Foundation finds many ways to improve the quality of life for our community through the education and empowerment of its youth,” said Reagan-Porter.

The foundation helps teach the community and its youth how music can help spur other opportunities including education. “The Foundation’s motto, ‘Progress through Education. Enlightenment through Music,’ means that we can find many ways to bring music and education together to help a part of the community that is sadly overlooked in many ways,” said Reagan-Porter.