All hail the Queen of Soul…..
Respect – Aretha Franklin (1967, Atlantic Records, Taken from ‘I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You’)
I was watching the film ‘The Blues Brothers’ the other day. It was on quite late on quality terrestrial channel ITV4, and I had just got back in from the pub and wanted something to do whilst I ate some toast (I was actually hoping to catch the Tour De France highlights). I’ve never really enjoyed the film, apart from the bit involving Aretha Franklin, who steals the entire film, as soul food restaurant owner Mrs Murphy. The Brothers arrive at the restaurant to try and persuade Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy to rejoin the band. Aretha, tries to persuade him otherwise, first she curses, then she flies into a song, and the look on her face at the end of it is priceless. If I had stopped to er, ‘think’ we might have had that in this countdown as well.
‘Think’ – Aretha Franklin (1968, Atlantic Records Taken from ‘Aretha, Now’) – by the way, just how good were the releases on Atlantic Records between say 1967 and 1971.
But it had to be ‘Respect’ because it is officially (since 2021 that is at least) the Greatest Song of All Time, according to ‘Rolling Stone’ Magazine. I didn’t realise that they had the authority on such things, whether they used, (what I am now trademarking just in case) ‘A Musical Jury’ is not clear.
It was also in 2019 voted the ‘Greatest Cover Version of all time’ by one of the Sunday Papers (beating the second placed ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ and bizarrely in third place Peter Kay’s version of ‘The Road to Amarillo). Again, whether a Musical Jury TM was used in that particular exercise in nonsense is not known (but Jury Members, stand by, I might just do an exercise to see if this is correct).
‘Respect’ is of course, marvellous, a frantic, wailing, call to arms for the several generations and communities. A song that despite being written by a man (that being Otis Redding), is given a completely different context and meaning when changed slightly and sung from the female perspective. By doing that (and insisting that it was arranged the way she said it should be arranged) Aretha Franklin’s version became two things, firstly (and most importantly) an anthem for Civil Rights, freedom, and the liberation of women and secondly, the only version of this song that you will ever need to hear. To be honest, until I bought ‘Otis Blue’ I’d forgotten that Redding even wrote it (and he admitted that Franklin ‘simply took the song from him’ and that ‘it wasn’t his anymore’) and his version has none of the passion of Aretha’s version.
Here are a couple of other Aretha tracks that have One Word Titles, but to be honest if you spent a couple of hours delving into ‘Aretha, Now’ or ‘I Never Loved A Man…’ you would be giving yourselves a well earnt treat.
Mockingbird – Aretha Franklin (1964, Columbia Records, Taken from ‘Runnin’ out of Fools’)
Pullin – Aretha Franklin (1970, Atlantic Records, Taken from ‘Spirit In The Dark’)