“Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock ’n’ roll — the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope.”
Moved to tears by Aretha Franklin’s live performance at the Kennedy Center Honors, President Obama expressed the power of the voice and legacy of the soul singer saying, “American history wells up when Aretha sings.” This matter of fact has been proven throughout the career of the Detroit native who’s voice was actually deemed a Michigan ‘natural resource’.
Raised in her father’s church and steeped in gospel music, Aretha’s voice would not be contained within one single genre. Her skill and talent shone through powerful songs embraced by soul, rock ‘n’ roll, and R&B.
This Friday, August 31, the legendary soul singer will be laid to rest at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit – the church where her father, minister and civil rights activist, Clarence LaVaughn Franklin once famously pastored.
As we celebrate the life of the undisputed Queen of Soul, we pay tribute to the queens ability to completely own songs previously sung by other artists. Make no mistake, when Aretha redid a song, she owned it – infusing soul, emotion, and history into every note.
Check Out These 7 Times Aretha Franklin Slayed The Cover Better Then The Original:
Originally written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon (1964) and popularized by Frank Sinatra (1966).
That every time I see myself, fallin’ flat on my face This is what I do, Say get up girl, oh, listen to yourself, oh, get back up in the race”
Aretha Franklin isn’t just the Queen of Soul, she’s the queen of expressing deep emotions and self-confidence. Sinatra’s version is a feel-good track about being at ease with what life is, but Franklin’s revision has a spiritual uplift, overcoming darker days and being transparent with oneself.
2. The Thrill is Gone
Originally recorded by Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell in 1951.
The concept of the song is identical to the original, yet her version is slightly longer as she takes back her freedom after leaving a painful relationship. This song also notes the impact Martin Luther King Jr. had with lyrics from his “I Have A Dream” speech, Yes, I’m free (free) yeah, I’m free (free) I’m free (Thank god almighty, I’m free at last). Her version was recorded in 1970, two years after she sang at his funeral.
3. “Eleanor Rigby”
Originally recorded by the Beatles, 1966.
If anyone knows about growing up in the church, as the daughter of a pastor, it would be Aretha Franklin. She has a way of changing the concept of a song completely adding her narrative and voice to the story giving the song a meaningful soulful connection. She did that with the Beatles “Eleanor Rigby,” a powerful position she decided to place herself in.
Instead of reciting the same lyrics, she re-positioned the narration, transitioning the song into a first-person story. It speaks to the type of artist she was, bold and self-assured in her capabilities of creating a whole new song and expression that wasn’t covered in the original.
4. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”
Originally recorded by The Rolling Stones, 1968
Made famous by rock band, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin revamped the song, which was included on her 31st studio album titled Aretha, released in 1986. While both songs start with a guitar solo, Franklin’s version accompanies herself on the piano adding her touch of rock soul.
5. “What A Fool Believes”
Originally recorded by The Doobie Brothers, 1978
The song was written by Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins and popularized by rock band, The Doobie Brothers. The song received both Song of The Year and Album of The Year at the 1980’s Grammy Awards. Both versions are groovy to listen to, yet Franklin’s remake allows yacht rock palatable for black listeners. In Aretha Franklin’s fashion, she added more soul claps with semi-instrumentation solos near the end making the song funky.
6. “Son of A Preacher Man”
Originally recorded by Dusty Springfield, 1968
The song was originally written and recorded for Aretha, but since it didn’t fit the sound of her other songs and deemed inappropriate, it was passed to Dusty Springfield for her album Dusty In Memphis. Franklin reconsidered doing the song, once Springfield’s version became a Top 10 hit.
Originally recorded by Otis Redding, 1965
“Otis Redding quit singing “Respect” after hearing Aretha’s version (“From now on, it belongs to her”).”
The most significant song in Franklin’s catalog is the 1965 rendition of “Respect” recorded by Otis Redding. Two years later, in 1967, she recorded her version of the song. She changed a few lyrics shedding light on her perspective. Adding texture to the song, she spelled out R-E-S-P-E-C-T producing a more catchy. The song became a hit record due to her rearrangements redefining the purpose and meaning of the song-shaping it into an anthem of women’s liberation.
Take this as proof of legacy that when Aretha covered a song, she anointed it with her one of a kind signature. These are just 7 of the many reasons that we will always put some R-E-S-P-E-C-T on her name.