Another wonderful artist that we featured in 2018 was the legendary Aretha Franklin… William shares her story and her music in the 1970s
Aretha Franklin – The 1970s
Franklin’s success expanded during the early 1970s in which she recorded top ten singles such as “Spanish Harlem”, “Rock Steady” and “Day Dreaming” as well as the acclaimed albums, “Spirit in the Dark”, “Young, Gifted & Black” and her gospel album “Amazing Grace,” which sold over two million copies.
“I Say a Little Prayer,” written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for Dionne Warwick in 1966, returned to the Pop & R&B Top Ten in the fall of 1968 via Aretha Franklin, taken from her 1968 album “Aretha Now.” Franklin and background vocalists “The Sweet Inspirations” were singing the song for fun while rehearsing the songs intended for the album when the viability of their recording “I Say a Little Prayer” became apparent, significantly re-invented from the format of the Dionne Warwick original via the prominence of Clayton Ivey’s piano work.
Similar to the history of Warwick’s double-sided hit, the Aretha Franklin version was intended the B-side of the July 1968 single release “The House that Jack Built” but began to accrue its own airplay that August. In October 1968 “I Say a Little Prayer” reached number ten and number three on the R&B singles chart. The same month the single was certified Gold by the RIAA. “Prayer” became Franklin’s ninth and last consecutive Hot 100 top 10 hit on the Atlantic label. Franklin’s “Prayer” has a special significance in her UK career, as with its September 1968 No. 4 peak it became Franklin’s biggest UK hit; subsequently Franklin has surpassed that track’s UK peak only with her No. 1 collaboration with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”.
“Think” was released as single in 1968, from her “Aretha Now” album. The song, a feminist anthem, reached No. 7 on Billboard Hot 100, becoming Franklin’s seventh top 10 hit in the United States. The song also reached #1 on the magazine’s Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles, becoming her sixth single to top the chart. The song was written by Aretha and then husband Ted White. Franklin re-recorded the song in 1989 for the album “Through the Storm.” Pitchfork Media placed it at number 15 on its list of “The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s”.
“Spanish Harlem” – Aretha Franklin released a cover version of this song in 1971 that outperformed the original on the charts, charting #1 R&B for three weeks and #2 Pop for two weeks. Franklin’s version earned her a gold single” Purdie for sales of over one million. Dr. John played keyboards on Franklin’s version with Bernard “Pretty” Purdie on drums, and Chuck Rainey on bass. This version peaked at #6 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart. Franklin also changed the lyrics slightly, from “A red rose up in Spanish Harlem” to “There’s a rose in Black ‘n Spanish Harlem. A rose in Black ‘n Spanish Harlem.” Written by Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector, “Spanish Harlem” was originally released by Ben E. King in 1960.
“Rock Steady,” released in 1971, from the album “Young, Gifted and Black” was written by Aretha Franklin. The single reached the #9 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart that same year. It also peaked at #2 on the Best Selling Soul Singles chart and is cited as one of the first disco songs. The B-side, “Oh Me Oh My (I’m a Fool for You Baby)” peaked at #73 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #9 on the Best Selling Soul Singles chart.
Music critic Matthew Greenwald wrote: “Rock Steady is one of her few self-penned hits, and was also a very timely song indeed. Built on a sturdy, funk/R&B-driven base, the melody and bass lines have more than a hint of gospel to them. A wonderful dance record, it came at the dawn of the 1970s and perfectly bridged the gap between Memphis R&B and was what soon to become known as disco music. The lyrics are unashamedly sensual, with fabulous and effective references to driving, among other things, which mirror a sexual experience.”
“Bridge Over Troubled Water,” composed by singer-songwriter Paul Simon, carries the influence of gospel music and was the biggest single ever released by Simon and Garfunkel. Apparently Paul Simon wrote the song quite rapidly. When the song was finished, Simon asked himself, “Where did that come from? It doesn’t seem like me.” Indeed, the song sounds more like a traditional gospel tune than Paul Simon’s usual compositions and it was quite natural that Aretha Franklin would one day record this song.
Franklin’s gospel-inspired cover version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” released in March 1971, reached number one on the US R&B chart and number six on the pop chart. The single was certified gold by the RIAA selling two million copies and later won the Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1972. Her version was included in “Greatest Moments, Volume III: Various Artists.” Franklin debuted her version of this song at the 1971 Grammy Awards and it was also recorded on her 1971 album “Aretha Live at Fillmore West.”
Here you will find a really powerful rendition of this song. Backed by a girl-group gospel chorus, Aretha belts out the song in a slow, powerful cadence, backing it up with an impressive performance on piano. A lovely organ part accentuates the gospel feeling.
“To Be Young Gifted And Black” is a song written by Nina Simone with lyrics by Weldon Irvine. It was written in memory of Simone’s late friend Lorraine Hansberry, author of the play “A Raisin in the Sun,” who had died in 1965 aged 34, and was a Civil Rights Movement anthem. Released as a single, it peaked at #8 on the R&B chart and #76 on the Hot 100. Franklin remodels Nina Simone’s “Young, Gifted and Black” as a gospel anthem. It is arguably its most potent recorded version.
“Young Gifted And Black” is Franklin’s twentieth studio album. Certified “Gold,” the album won Aretha a 1972 Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance of the year. In 2003, the TV network VH1 named it the 76th greatest album of all time. The BBC music critic, Daryl Easlea, in his BBC review said “Young, Gifted and Black exudes superiority, confidence and class.”
In 1971, Franklin became the first R&B performer to headline Fillmore West, later recording the live album, “Aretha Live at Fillmore West.”
Additional Information: Wikipedia
We hope you have enjoyed the third part of the Aretha Franklin story and will tune in for the final episode next week.
William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.
His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.
While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.
His debut jazz album was entitled “Home,” and was a collection of contemporary compositions he composed, with lyrics written by his wife Jeanne King. His second album was a Duo (Voice and Guitar) with Eric Sempé on the guitar. This album included original songs as well as well known standards from contemporary jazz and pop artists. The “King-Sempé” duo toured France and thrilled audiences for more than three years before going their separate ways. King has formed a new duo with French/Greek guitarist Manolis, and is now exploring new ideas, in a smooth jazz/soul/folk direction.
In addition to singing and composing, King has been collaborating with author Sally Cronin over the past few years on her blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life,” with the series “A Man And His Music – Jazz, Contemporary, Classical, and Legends” and now, the “William Price King Music Column.” Working with author Sally Cronin has been an exhilarating experience in many ways and has brought a new dimension to King’s creative life. King has also created a micro blog, “Improvisation,” which features and introduces mostly jazz artists from across the jazz spectrum who have made considerable contributions in the world of jazz; and also artwork from painters who have made their mark in the world of art. This micro blog can be found on Tumblr.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé. King has a distinctive wide-ranging voice which displays a remarkable technical facility and emotional depth.
My thanks to William for the amazing artists he has brought to the blog and thank you for dropping in today. As always your feedback is very welcome.