Remembering Otis Redding: “Pain in My Heart”

Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Otis Redding PAIN IN MY HEART Cover

52 years ago, the world lost one of its greatest R&B singers, and since it still stings even more than half a century later, it seems only appropriate to shine a spotlight on a lyrically-relevant song from Otis Redding’s back catalog and the album which bears its name.

Penned by Redding, “Pain in My Heart” served as the opening track and the title track of Redding’s debut album, and it also went on to achieve hit-single status, but it was certainly not the only hit contained within the grooves of the LP. No, Redding also found success with “Security,” “That’s What My Heart Needs,” and “These Arms of Mine.” It was that last track which provided Redding with the first top-20 R&B hit of his career, kicking off a run that one presumes would’ve lasted much longer if his recording career hadn’t ended up abruptly with the plane crash that also served to conclude Redding’s life.

Not that his chart success ended with his death, of course: it’s well-known that “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” provided Redding with a posthumous #1 hit.

But let’s get back to “Pain in My Heart,” a song about which Rob Bowman wrote in Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records, “Otis's dynamic control is front and center as he uses his voice as a horn, swelling and decreasing in volume, swallowing syllables and worrying the word 'heart.'...It was Otis's most successful effort to date, commercially and aesthetically."

Mind you, that whole “most successful” thing only meant that it hit #61 on the Billboard Hot 100, a chart high that Redding would surpass in short order. At the time, though, it was a big deal...and even now, it’s still a stone-cold classic.