Today is the birthday of Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul. The metaphor of royal lineage has some application in Franklin’s case. Her father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin, was the renowned Detroit preacher whose New Bethel Baptist Church provided the original venue for Aretha and her sisters, Erma and Carolyn.
She became a child star as a gospel singer and was signed at age eighteen to a recording contract at Columbia Records by the legendary producer John Hammond. At Columbia Aretha floundered as the label tried to turn her into a supper club singer, never finding the means to showcase her awesome talent.
Aretha arrived in the spring of 1967, courtesy of Jerry Wexler and Atlantic Records. Wexler signed Aretha to Atlantic in the fall of 1966. He sat Aretha at a piano and placed her in the midst of sympathetic musicians at the famed Muscle Shoals Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Loved You)” was the result, and everyone involved knew that Aretha had found herself musically.
The session resumed in New York and included the recording of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” the song that broke Aretha nationally overnight. According to Peter Guralnick, Redding presciently told Wexler upon hearing Aretha’s version of “Respect” for the first time: “I just lost my song. That girl took it away from me.” Onstage at the Monterrey International Pop Festival later that year, he repeated: “The girl took that song away from me.” If you heard the song in the spring of 1967, you remember: She took the song away from him.
Aretha’s glorious body of work on Atlantic continued into the mid-1970’s. The albums are full of buried treasures such as “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” “Dr. Feelgood,” and “Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream” from “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You” (1967),
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