Airdate – Oct 03, 2021
The recent portrayals of Aretha Franklin by Cynthia Ervio in the mini-series, ‘Aretha Genius’ and Jennifer Hudson in the movie ‘Respect’ were most enlightening to say the least. Franklin’s propensity to “own a song” whether it was an original of hers or a cover of another artist’s was a cornerstone in elevating her to the status of “Queen of Soul.”
Her ability to crossover from R&B to the Pop and Adult Contemporary charts was incredible. From 1961 to 1998 she had no less than 76 charted singles on the Billboard Hot 100 including 17 Top 10 hits with two of those going to #1.
However, like other artists, she too released a number of recordings that failed to catch on nationally. In 1967 she recorded a cover of a song from 1959 by a R&B artist who was really making a name for himself at the time. Both versions failed to make it onto the Pop charts as a single … but they should’ve.
To say that Aretha Franklin had her share of personal turmoil would be an understatement. Her childhood was far from normal and she grew up quickly, giving birth twice at the age of 12 and 15 respectively.
And it was at the age of 12 she began touring with her father, a Baptist minister and circuit preacher. She also travelled occasionally with the famed gospel group the Soul Stirrers and spent a number of her summers as a teenager on the gospel circuit in Chicago. According to music producer Quincy Jones, while Franklin was still young, Dinah Washington let him know that “Aretha was the ‘next one’.”
Fittingly, at the age of 18, this talented singer, songwriter, and pianist signed on with Columbia Records.
Her days at Columbia saw her record in a number of different genres including traditional standards, jazz, R&B, and pop. Her first Top 40 hit came in 1961. It was a cover of Al Jolson’s “Rock-A-Bye You Baby With A Dixie Melody,” which went to the #1 position on the charts for Jolson in 1918.
In 1967 Franklin made it to the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 with her arrangement of Otis Redding’s’ “Respect” that featured King Curtis on the saxophone.
She would go on to cover other artists, even the Beatles with her version of “Eleanor Rigby” which went to #17 on the pop charts in 1969.
But back in 1967, the “Queen of Soul” covered another artist. Ironically, she covered the “Godfather of Soul,” James Brown. A beautiful ballad, the two arrangements epitomize the essence of soul. Both versions should’ve been hits. Here’s “It Was You,” this week’s Tom Locke moment in time.
YouTube video of this song:
Aretha Franklin – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lojORzWf6vU
James Brown And The Famous Flames – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45X9T_i4LvI