arewell to Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul
25 March 1942 - 16 August 2018
A couple of years ago I was watching a concert on TV. Beyonce was performing and I thought WOW, that girl is amazing. Then Aretha Franklin joined Beyonce on stage and suddenly Beyonce was almost invisible. Aretha owned the stage in a way that Beyonce probably dreams she will someday do too.
Aretha truly was the Queen of Soul. Many of Aretha’s songs were about the empowerment of women. For example:
Written by Aretha with her then husband, Teddy White. It reached number 26 in the UK chart in 1968 and became a feminist anthem around the western world. Anyone who has seen the 1980 film, The Blues Brothers will remember Aretha singing the song as an aggrieved wife whose husband wants to tour with a blues band leaving her to run their diner alone.
YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE A NATURAL WOMAN:
This was the last song written by the brilliant songwriting team, Carole King and Gerry Goffin in 1967 before they split to go their separate ways. As they left the famous Brill Building where they worked, churning out hit after hit for the pop celebrities of the day, producer Jerry Wexler pulled up in his car and said,
“Hey, I gotta song I want you to write for me.” It’s called You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.” The song was to be for Aretha and as we all know it became a huge hit. Carole King recorded it herself in 1971 for her award-winning album Tapestry.
I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER:
This Burt Bacharach and Hal David song was originally written for and recorded by Dionne Warwick. Its theme is a woman’s concerns for her husband who is away fighting in the Vietnam War. It was very successful but Bacharach is on record as saying he was never really happy with the final result of the recording. He felt it sounded rushed. A year later, Aretha Franklin’s version (taken from her album, Aretha Now) was released as a single. It remained Aretha’s biggest UK hit until her collaboration with George Michael, I Knew You Were Waiting For Me in 1987.
This was the very first of Aretha’s songs to chart in the UK and it peaked at No. 10 in the singles chart in 1967. It became her signature song but she was not the first person to record it.
In 1965, the song’s writer, Otis Redding recorded Respect albeit quite different. Redding always said it was one of his favourite compositions.
“It’s one of my favourite records, it has a better groove than any of my others,” he explained. “It says something too: what you want, baby you got it, what you need, baby you got it. All I’m asking is a little respect when I come home. It took me a whole day to write it and about twenty minutes to arrange it. We cut it once and that was that!”
Although Respect wasn’t a massive hit for Otis Redding, it was an important song, earning him respect in the industry and paving the way for bigger success in his songwriting and performing career. His version was sung from a man’s perspective.
When Aretha recorded the song, she added quite a lot to it, changing it to represent a woman’s point of view, making it a big powerful anthem which was adopted by the feminist movement.
Take Care TBC (take care of business) is a line contributed by Aretha’s younger sister Carolyn who sang on the record. Carolyn, like Aretha’s other sister, Erma also had a successful musical career although neither of them ever acquired the same level of stardom that Aretha did. Both of the sisters have died.
Aretha Franklin once declared that the reason Respect was so successful was that everyone wants to be respected and can relate to the lyrics.
This Sunday 19th August, I will be paying tribute to Aretha Franklin on the Newport City Radio Sunday Soul Show 4-6pm by playing a selection of her songs.