(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay

Otis Redding

Learn in three simple steps:


Listen to the song
Enjoy listening to the music using the video below. Make a mental note of any interesting words or parts, but don't worry if you can't understand yet. No video? Watch on YouTube.


Play the explanation
Grab a hot drink and relax. I'll explain each line of the song for you. Use the explanations to understand the song lyrics, but don't worry about knowing every word that I use to explain. For an extra challenge listen without the transcript.


[Clickable Transcript]

Hello and welcome everybody to Explained in English. My name is Ki and today I'm explaining the song “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding.

Hey everyone, just a couple quick notes about today’s explanation. The first is that I recorded it at work and you can sometimes hear traffic in the background and the microphone is not as good. So, I apologize for that. I have a few older recordings like this one that I think I’d still like to release. So, maybe every now and then you get an old recording like this with some background noise but I promise not too often.

The second thing to keep in mind is to make sure that you listen to the real song before you listen to this explanation. You can hear the music and follow along with a transcript of this audio at explainedinenglish.com. I’m also leaving a direct link to the transcript and music in the description. Okay, with that said, enjoy the explanation.

This is a great song which captures a spirit of loneliness, of not knowing quite what to do in life, sort of an aimlessness. In a certain sense it's a sad song and I think it's even more sad if you know that the writer of the song or the singer of the song, Otis Redding, he actually died in a plane crash just a few days after recording. So, it was a number one hit in the United States and the United Kingdom, but only after his death or posthumously. Posthumously means happening after the death of someone. So, this was a posthumous hit single. The song starts with the line:


[Verse 1]
Sittin' in the mornin' sun
I'll be sittin' when the evenin' come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch 'em roll away again, yeah

I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I'm just sittin' on the dock of a bay
Wastin' time

[Verse 2]
I left my home in Georgia
Headed for the 'Frisco bay
'Cause I've got nothin' to live for
And look like nothin's gonna come my way

Look like nothin'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

[Verse 3]
Sittin' here resting my bones
And this loneliness won't leave me alone
It's two thousand miles I roamed
Just to make this dock my home

So that's the song! You can see that it's very much a song about loneliness, about aimlessness, about not quite knowing what to do. He has so many people telling him how to live his life or what he should do but he hasn't made the decision yet himself, and in this confusion, he just decides to stop and sit and observe and wait. And he's hoping that something will maybe come but he doesn't have a lot of faith that things are going to change. He's come a long way in life and he's not quite sure why yet.

And that's what I think the song is all about and I think he did a great job describing that general feeling, not only in the words, but also in the music and the instrumentation itself. I'd like to invite you now to listen to the real song and hopefully you can understand all of it and you can use it as a tool for practicing and improving your English. Bye! See you next time!



You just learned a great song and can listen over and over to improve your English. Play the song again now and see how much more you understand.

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