Friday, September 21, 2007

Number 563 - Aretha Franklin

Number 563

Aretha Franklin



AAAAARRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH ! Just as one child is out of hospital, another one is in with, what was first thought as a broken neck with a possible severe outcome. Now without going into detail like an ongoing ER episode, all turned out well. However, i am over hospitals. Period.
On a brighter note, i am back home from a deep south trip for work and i am pleased to say i have adjusted from the time zone change. After all its really hard to turn your casio watch back twenty years and then move back to the latest millenium. Figure that out McFly

Aretha Franklin is one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole. More than any other performer, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged. Her astonishing run of late-'60s hits with Atlantic Records -- "Respect," "I Never Loved a Man," "Chain of Fools," "Baby I Love You," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Think," "The House That Jack Built," and several others -- earned her the title "Lady Soul," which she has worn uncontested ever since. Yet as much of an international institution as she's become, much of her work -- outside of her recordings for Atlantic in the late '60s and early '70s -- is erratic and only fitfully inspired, making discretion a necessity when collecting her records.
Art by sanne707
Franklin's roots in gospel ran extremely deep. With her sisters Carolyn and Erma (both of whom would also have recording careers), she sang at the Detroit church of her father, Reverend C.L. Franklin, while growing up in the 1950s. In fact, she made her first recordings as a gospel artist at the age of 14. It has also been reported that Motown was interested in signing Aretha back in the days when it was a tiny start-up. Ultimately, however, Franklin ended up with Columbia, to which she was signed by the renowned talent scout John Hammond. Franklin would record for Columbia constantly throughout the first half of the '60s, notching occasional R&B hits (and one Top 40 single, "Rock-a-bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody") but never truly breaking out as a star. The Columbia period continues to generate considerable controversy among critics, many of whom feel that Aretha's true aspirations were being blunted by pop-oriented material and production. In fact, there's a reasonable amount of fine items to be found on the Columbia sides, including the occasional song ("Lee Cross," "Soulville") where she belts out soul with real gusto. It's undeniably true, though, that her work at Columbia was considerably tamer than what was to follow, and suffered in general from a lack of direction and an apparent emphasis on trying to develop her as an all-around entertainer, rather than as an R&B/soul singer.

In the late '60s, Franklin became one of the biggest international recording stars in all of pop. Many also saw Franklin as a symbol of black America itself, reflecting the increased confidence and pride of African-Americans in the decade of the civil rights movements and other triumphs for the black community. The chart statistics are impressive in and of themselves: ten Top Ten hits in a roughly 18-month span between early 1967 and late 1968, for instance, and a steady stream of solid mid- to large-size hits for the next five years after that. Her Atlantic albums were also huge sellers, and far more consistent artistically than those of most soul stars of the era. Franklin was able to maintain creative momentum, in part, because of her eclectic choice of material, which encompassed first-class originals and gospel, blues, pop, and rock covers, from the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel to Sam Cooke and the Drifters. She was also a fine, forceful, and somewhat underrated keyboardist.

Franklin had a few more hits over the next few years -- "Angel" and the Stevie Wonder cover "Until You Come Back to Me" being the most notable -- but generally her artistic inspiration seemed to be tapering off, and her focus drifting toward more pop-oriented material. Her Atlantic contract ended at the end of the 1970s, and since then she's managed to get intermittent hits -- "Who's Zooming Who" and "Jump to It" are among the most famous -- without remaining anything like the superstar she was at her peak. Many of her successes were duets, or crafted with the assistance of newer, glossier-minded contemporaries such as Luther Vandross. There was also another return to gospel in 1987 with One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.

Critically, as is the case with many '60s rock legends, there have been mixed responses to her later work. Some view it as little more than a magnificent voice wasted on mediocre material and production. Others seem to grasp for any excuse they can to praise her whenever there seems to be some kind of resurgence of her soul leanings. Most would agree that her post-mid-'70s recordings are fairly inconsequential when judged against her prime Atlantic era. The blame is often laid at the hands of unsuitable material, but it should also be remembered that -- like Elvis Presley and Ray Charles -- Franklin never thought of herself as confined to one genre. She always loved to sing straight pop songs, even if her early Atlantic records gave one the impression that her true home was earthy soul music. If for some reason she returned to straight soul shouting in the future, it's doubtful that the phase would last for more than an album or two. In the meantime, despite her lukewarm recent sales record, she's an institution, assured of the ability to draw live audiences and immense respect for the rest of her lifetime, regardless of whether there are any more triumphs on record in store. ~ [Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide]

For the Beatles see Number 947, #894, #587 & #489
For Simon & Garfunkel see Number 964
For Stevie Wonder see Number 657
For Luther Vandross see Number 916
For Elvis Presley see Number 840 & #501
For Ray Charles see Number 518
For Sam Cooke see Number 481

What does Pappy Stone think about Miss Franklin?
Aretha Franklin is not only the definitive female soul singer of the '60s, but one of the most influential and important voices in the history of popular music. Aretha Franklin fused the leaps and swoops of the gospel music she grew up on with the sensuality of R&B, the innovation of jazz, and the precision of pop. After she hit her artistic and commercial stride in 1967, she made over a dozen million selling singles, and since then has recorded 20 #1 R&B hits. She moved toward the pop mainstream with fitful success in the ’70s, but in the late ’80s experienced a resurgence in popularity, and continues to record in a less ecstatic, perhaps more mature style.
In 1966 she signed with Atlantic. With the help of producer Jerry Wexler, arranger Arif Mardin, and engineer Tom Dowd, Franklin began to make the records that would reshape soul music. Her first session (and the only one recorded at Muscle Shoals, in Alabama) yielded “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)” (#9 pop, #1 R&B, 1967) and heralded a phenomenal three years in which she sold in the millions with “Respect” (#1 pop and R&B, 1967), “Baby I Love You” (#4 pop, #1 R&B, 1967), “Chain of Fools” (#2 pop, #1 R&B, 1968), “Since You’ve Been Gone” (#5 pop, #1 R&B, 1968), “Think” (#7 pop, #1 R&B, 1968), “The House That Jack Built” (#6 pop, #2 R&B, 1968), “I Say a Little Prayer” (#10 pop, #3 R&B, 1968), “See Saw” (#14 pop, #9 R&B, 1968), “The Weight” (#19 pop, #3 R&B, 1969), “Share Your Love With Me” (#13 pop, #1 R&B, 1969), “Eleanor Rigby” (#17 pop, #5 R&B, 1969), “Call Me” (#13 pop, #1 R&B, 1970), and “Spirit in the Dark” (#23 pop, #3 R&B, 1970).
In 1987 Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1988 Franklin’s sister Carolyn died of cancer; around the same period her brother and manager, Cecil, also died. She appeared with Frank Sinatra on his Duets album and in 1993 starred in her own television special, Duets, which featured her singing with a number of current pop stars, including Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Smokey Robinson, George Michael, and Rod Stewart. She appeared at the inaugural celebration for President Bill Clinton, where her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” (from Les Miserables) barely got more attention than her wearing a fur coat (for which she offered no apologies). “A Deeper Love” (#63 pop, #30 R&B, 1994), from the Sister Act 2 soundtrack, was written and produced by Robert Clivilles and David Cole of C + C Music Factory. “Willing to Forgive” was another Top 20 R&B hit that year. In 1994 Franklin received a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement. ~ [from The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001)]
For Frank Sinatra see Number 933
For Smokey Robinson see Number 565
For George Michael see Number 821
For Blues Brothers see Number 875
For Elton John see Number 531
Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs ranked this song at Number 5 the Album ranked at Number 83
This song has a crowbarred rating of 73.4 out of 108
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