Released March 10, 1967 the album immediately went to #2 on the Billboard chart and #1 on the R&B chart. It’s #83 on the list of 500 Best Albums of All Time as well as being on the 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die, Best Albums of the 1960s, 50 Essential Albums and several other lists. It is certified Gold.
Jason: Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul. I really get that from this album.
Brad: Yeah, this album is powerful.
Jason: The third song, the title song, WOW it is so amazing. When she sings “I never… loved a man.. the way that I… I loved you.” It’s super sensual.
Brad: I love that too. There are so many moments like that on this album where she takes an ordinary phrase but makes you feel it in her own special way. My favorite is the way she says “Every once in a while” in “Dr. Feelgood”
Jason: Is the Mötley Crüe “Dr. Feelgood” related to her song at all? Or do they just share a title?
Brad: I don’t think they have anything to do with each other.
Jason: Maybe they just loved her and were inspired by that song. I assume that song (hers and I guess theirs) is about drugs.
Brad: I think hers is about sex. She’s trying to get her family and friends to leave so she can have sexy times with her man
Jason: Naughty for a church lady. You read her biography and there are a lot of salacious stories in it, correct?
Brad: I did read Respect by David Ritz recently. He was her official biographer or maybe you would call it a ghostwriter for Aretha’s memoir. He worked with her for years and turned in the manuscript. Then she edited down to only the parts she liked and released it but then years later he released his version which included much more truth in it. She grew up in the church and her father was a famous minister (C.L. Franklin) and yet she was pregnant with her first child at the age of 12! That is so crazy to me.
Jason: Twelve years-old?!
Brad: And then she had her second child when she was 15.
Jason: Gross. Obviously there was something going on there (abuse) if she is having two kids before she is in high school. Are her kids still around?
Brad: Yeah, I think they are still around.
Jason: No wonder she needs to take care of TCB. Speaking of “Respect” is a song that you hear probably once a month and it never gets old.
Brad: I agree. It is such a classic. This whole album is full of classics. This was her 10th album. Believe it or not, she had never really had a big hit prior to this album. She seemed to want a hit so badly and tried so many different styles before this and they just didn’t catch on. On this album, she wrote some of the songs. Some were written for her and some were covers of songs. Two of them are Sam Cooke songs. I think her version of Cooke’s “Good Times” is better than his. Although, I don’t think her interpretation of “A Change Is Gonna Come” is quite as good.
Jason: “Respect” was her first #1 hit at age 25 after releasing almost 30 singles over the previous six years, none of which even cracked the top 50. Her version of “A Change is Gonna Come” is more gospel. His is that classic 60s jazz R&B style. Not on this album but I really like some of her 80s hits as well. It’s amazing she was able to transition into 80s pop.
Brad: I agree. She had quite a career revival in the 80s. This is especially interesting because she is one of the only R&B divas that didn’t opt to do a disco album during the period in the 70s when her career was not quite as hot. I kinda love the two early 80s albums she did with Luther Vandross “Jump To It” and “Get It Right”. I’ve been listening to those lately. On a side note, those two album covers are so wonderfully cheesy.
Jason: Imagine if she had done a disco album? It would have been amazing, or awful, which would have also been amazing.
Brad: I stand corrected! She did try disco on her album “La Diva” in 1979.
Jason: Good thing you corrected yourself because I heard Mitchell scream all the way from Rhode Island when you said she never tried Disco.
Brad: Well, it was a huge flop and it ended her career at Atlantic. I’ve never listened to that album. So now I’m gonna listen to that one right away.
Jason: Yes! Let’s find that album. By the way “La Diva” is not on Spotify. Hmmmm.
Brad: Now I’m going to be obsessed with trying to find that album on vinyl.
Jason: I want this painted as a huge mural on our bedroom wall.
Jason: What do you think makes her so important to the music industry?
Brad: She can sing just about anything and make it her own. Also, she was a pretty great piano player and music arranger but doesn’t always get enough credit for that.
Jason: Overall I was really impressed by this album. I listened to it about a dozen or so times.
Brad: I did too! It is only 33 minutes long. So I always felt like it went by fast and would start it again.
Jason: It is a fairly short album.
Brad: By the way, one more thing about this album. I was looking at the songwriting credits and was reminded of something I learned from the Respect book. “Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream” and “Dr. Feelgood” show that Aretha’s cowriter was her husband Ted White. Aretha wrote those songs by herself but gave Ted White songwriting credit because he was her husband and manager at the time. He was abusive and controlling and the fact that he or his estate continues to get royalties on those songs really sucks.
Jason: This is why she would get paid in cash up front and put her purse on the piano so no one can touch her money.
Brad: Yeah, I’m sure Ted was not the only abusive con artist she encountered in her life. She was forced to learn survival skills like that. Also, I don’t think she liked paying taxes but that is a story for another time.
Jason: So what grade are you giving this album?
Brad: I feel like I keep giving these albums a similar grade but I really love most of them. I think I’ll give this one a B+.
Jason: I am going with A- because I really do think it is an album that has and will continue to stand the test of time.
Brad: There will never be another Aretha.
Jason: I’m still in line for her funeral.
Below is the scratch-off artwork from the 100 Bucket List poster.