|Aretha Louise Franklin, March 25, 1942-August 16, 2018 (age 76), born in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.|
A sad day for music on the passing of the Legendary Aretha Franklin. There are plenty of tributes to this amazing singer and rightfully so and if you have been reading my blog you will know I’ve mentioned her before. You will be able to read all about her career and life story elsewhere, what you may not get is a bit of the story behind songs she gave new life too and her originals that have been remade.
She had covered at least 217 other songs and 45 of her original tunes have been redone by hundreds of other artists. Apart from her singular and spectacular voice she was a songwriter and a very accomplished piano player. I’ve already talked about one of her biggest hits, “Respect” and also “Chain of Fools”, but she had many more successful songs and covers of other songs.
“Spanish Harlem” by Ben E. King (1960) written by Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector. The song was King’s first hit after he left the Drifters and went to #10 on the Pop and #15 on the R&B charts.
Aretha Franklin’s version went to #1 on the R&B charts and hit #2 on the Pop charts in 1971, and sold over one million copies. She also made a change in the lyrics adding “a rose in black” rather than the original “ A red rose up in (Spanish Harlem)” Of note Dr. John played keyboards on the record and it also landed at #6 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart. I actually discovered the original through this version and it’s one of the best renditions of such a beautiful song covered well over 100 times, and 9 times alone in 1971.
“The Weight” by the Band (1968) written by Robbie Robertson
Aretha Franklin, in February 1969 and the fifth version of this classic from the Band. That’s Duane Allman on guitar by the way, I read she wanted some slide guitar and she said to the producer, “get me that white cat”. A great funky take on a song that’s been covered about 80 times.
“Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland with Victor Young and His Orchestra (1939) a studio version of the song she sang in the movie “Wizard of Oz” originally recorded in 1938. Music written by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. (Yip) Harburg. This song was almost cut from the Movie, hard to believe. Likely covered in excess of 1000 times. Listed number one on the ‘Songs of the Century’ project and the RIAA’s list as well. I'll remind you that Aretha's "Respect" was number 5 on that list.
A lesser known song from Aretha recorded when she was just 18 years old. Why not tackle one of the best (if not the best) songs ever written, sung by one of the best voices ever? Franklin was fearless, and this is just such a wonderful version of a song that’s been lost amongst many other great cover versions.
“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin, Written by Gerry Goffin, Carole King & Jerry Wexler (1967).
Written specifically for Aretha by the husband and wife duo and a song writing credit given to their producer and boss because of a vague suggestion that he wanted a “natural man” concept song. Reaching ‘only’ number 8 on the Billboard pop charts, which is really not too shabby for anyone else, nevertheless an incredible song which became a standard for Franklin for the rest of her career and covered in excess of 140 times.
An amazing cover from Carole King on her Tapestry Album (1971) one of the best collections of songs ever recorded. Mary J. Blige in 1995, not too shabby either.
“Daydreaming” written and performed by Aretha Franklin, released in 1972.
One of at least 14 original songs written or co-written by Aretha. Covered only 15 times but shows some great songwriting talent.
Natalie Cole in 2006.
I will finish with my favorite Aretha Franklin song, originally done by her in 1967. Covered over 55 times since then.
“Do Right Woman - Do Right Man” by Aretha Franklin, written by a couple of real pro’s Chips Moman and Dan Penn.
Click here for a playlist of the YouTube videos in this post.
In the words of Aretha herself, “ What is auto-tune? I don’t even know what auto-tune is.” A truly gifted and remarkable artist. Music like this will live on forever.
References: https://secondhandsongs.com/, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page, https://www.goalcast.com/2017/12/31/aretha-franklin-quotes/,
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