78: Aretha Franklin
The first track I recall of hers is ‘Think’. I played it hundreds of times on my disco ‘The Moving Company’ in 1968-9. It always brought the crowd alive. Amazingly vital.
The disco was the first sound/light synchronised disco in the world or certainly Britain. Due to my knowing electrical engineers who knew this stuff. It was beautiful: red boxes around the cornders for the beat; an inverted triangle of yellow for the guitars and a blue square for the voices. I’m not sure that adds up, but the effect was very dramatic for those days: late 60’s. Much like Aretha!
When searching out the tracks on YouTube I came accross a message saying that she’s on her deathbed. Sad news but she was a chainsmoker for a good deal of her life, so that’s probably what got her. But nothing could dim the life in her songs.
If the crowd needed to be calmed down a bit from the rock and roll, then ‘Say a little prayer’ kept them dancing but more slowly!
Rock Steady shows off her soaring voice and rhythmic feel:
On this song the biting guitar of Duane Allman helps put even more impact into her voice:
Here is another of her classics ‘Respect’ which dates from the middle of her career and still hits with plenty of ommph. She did a fair amoutn of commercial work that wasnt worthy of her talent, but anyone with such a long career is liable to that. She performed other people’s songs rather than writing her own.
This song is accusatory and all the more powerful for it: ‘You lied’
There is a wonderful song by Alain Bashung, in French, called ‘le nuit je mens’: the night I lied. Lying is powerful stuff when its exposed.
Aretha’s had a relatively long life for such a high profile star, and also for one whose first (of four) sons was born when she was 12. She has produed great stuff and I hope she goes out happy!