Madison Mural honors the life of Otis Redding

50th anniversary of Redding's death in Lake Monona
Madison Mural honors the life of Otis Redding
Photo courtesy Henrique Nardi, via
The artists stand in front of the "Try A Little Tenderness" mural located on Williamson Street.

On Dec. 10, 1967, the world lost a music great when his plane tragically crashed into Madison’s Lake Monona.

At 26, Otis Redding was flying to Madison to perform in a nightclub near the University of Wisconsin. The young singer-songwriter and record producer had just finished recording his hit chart topper “Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay” three days before his untimely death.

As 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of Redding’s death and what would have been his 75th birthday, artist and project organizer Henrique Nardi decided to honor the great soul singer with a mural highlighting Redding’s song “Try a Little Tenderness” on Williamson Street.

Nardi, an Otis Redding fan, found out Redding died in Madison after he arrived in 2014 from Brazil and said he thought it was important to have something honoring him in the city.

Nardi asked two of his friends from Brazil, Jackson Alves and Cyla Costa, who were also artists and in town for a conference, to stay a little after to help create the new mural. The three all have backgrounds as lettering artists.

Before he knew they were arriving, he wanted to create some sort of homage to Redding in Madison, but when he found out his friends were coming, he decided to make the mural about Redding.

“Only after that I thought, whoa, this could be the chance to do that Otis homage and everybody jumped on it right from the start,” Nardi said.

The Madison Arts Commission steered Nardi toward the Willy Street area since they were looking for more murals.

“By having a mural you draw people’s attention to it and it makes the neighborhood more colorful and interesting in general,” Nardi said.

The three artists had to work quickly since they only had five days to complete the mural. Nardi said artists Lynn Lee, Raymond Mawst and Pete Hodapp also came to help install. Nardi said they worked through the night in order to trace the mural on to the wall, and when rain interrupted the process midweek, they had to work quickly their last day in town to put on the final touches.

For Nardi, the timing of the mural was perfect and he hopes the mural will be somehow involved in the celebration of Redding this year.

“I believe that the mural is an art expression, and in this particular mural, it told a kind expression, which is try a little tenderness,” Nardi said.