It was 55 years ago Sunday (February 14th, 1967) that the late, great Aretha Franklin recorded her cover version of Otis Redding‘s “Respect.” Redding had originally recorded the song in 1965 and scored only a moderate hit when it peaked at Number 35. Redding’s arrangement was slightly more upbeat and consisted of only verses with no chorus or bridge.
Aretha recorded the song in New York City’s Atlantic Studios, playing piano on the track and using the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section — a group of four session musicians who mainly played sessions in Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, before later starting their own Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. It was Aretha’s idea to use the tape of King Curtis‘s sax solo from Sam & Dave‘s “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby” — which was recorded the night before at Memphis’ Stax Studios — to create a new bridge to the song.
The song’s producer Tom Dowd recalled the session: “Aretha said she liked the song, and started running (through it), although Aretha’s sister Carolyn (Franklin) was instrumental in the tempo aspect of it, the way they did it with (the) ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’ lines . . . It just went by very easily.”
Not long before her 2018 death, we asked Aretha if she was aware at the time that she was recording one of the most iconic records in all of rock, pop and soul history: [“At the time, no. It was just good and funky, and I liked it, and my sister and I put the ‘sock it to me’ phrase to it. And of course, a little later it became a mantra for civil rights groups and various other people.”] SOUNDCUE (:14 OC: . . . various other people)
Aretha’s version of “Respect” debuted in the Billboard Top 40 on May 6th, 1967, and hit Number One on June 3rd, holding down the top spot for two weeks.
Apart from being a radio staple since its release, the song has been featured in movies like Platoon, Forrest Gump, Mystic Pizza, and Back To School — as well as having been used prominently on Candace Bergen‘s hit TV show Murphy Brown.
- Out now is the recent collection, A Brand New Me: Aretha Franklin With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The album, which features Aretha Franklin‘s classic vocals, was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, with brand new backing vocals led by Grammy Award-winning singer Patti Austin.
- Highlights on the set are “newly re-imagined versions” of such legendary classics such as “Respect,” “Think,” “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied),” and “Angel.”
- The album was produced by Nick Patrick and Don Reedman, the masterminds behind the massive worldwide success of If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra — which recently topped the charts in multiple countries and has sold over 1.5 million copies.
- The tracklisting for A Brand New Me: Aretha Franklin With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is: “Think,” “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied),” “I Say A Little Prayer,” “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do),” “A Brand New Me,” “A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like),” “Angel,” “Border Song (Holy Moses),” “Let It Be,” “People Get Ready,” “Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby),” “You’re All I Need To Get By,” “Son Of A Preacher Man,” and “Respect.”