Single Stories: Aretha Franklin, “Respect”
31 years ago this week, Aretha Franklin found herself atop the Billboard Hot 100 for the second time in her career due to her duet with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” which seems like a good excuse to do a Single Stories piece about the first time she hit that same spot on the pop charts.
Recorded at New York City’s Atlantic Records Studio, where it was produced by the legendary Jerry Wexler, “Respect” was, of course, written by Otis Redding, although the song was originally a ballad. It was also originally intended as a song for Speedo Sims and the Singing Demons, but Sims apparently couldn’t deliver a version that cut muster, so Redding opted to sing it himself, hence its inclusion on Redding’s third studio album, OTIS BLUE. It was subsequently released as a single, where it became a top-5 hit on the Billboard Black Singles chart and even hit the Hot 100, climbing all the way to #35.
When Franklin recorded her version, however, she owned the song, adding the “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” bit, as well as the classic moment when Franklin’s sisters Erma and Carolyn repeat the words “sock it to me.” Franklin’s take on “Respect” became an anthem for both the women’s movement and the civil rights movement, and as we indicated above, it was a huge hit, muscling its way to the top of the pop and R&B charts.
Over the years, many singers and bands have turned in their own takes on “Respect,” but there’s no version quite like Aretha Franklin’s.
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