What’s That Song? Jennifer Hudson Channels the Queen of Soul at the BET Awards with “Young, Gifted & Black”

Monday, July 6, 2020
Arethan Franklin YOUNG GIFTED AND BLACK Cover

If you didn’t catch the BET Awards last week, you missed a great show, one which necessarily made some adaptions for the current Coronavirus situation, but what you probably haven’t missed – because it’s gone viral – is Jennifer Hudson’s performance of a song made famous by Aretha Franklin in 1972. That said, you may not have realized that the song in question, “Young, Gifted & Black,” was made famous by Aretha, and you may also not know who actually penned the tune in the first place...and that’s where we come in.

Written by Nina Simone and Weldon Irvine, “Young, Gifted & Black” served as the title track of Aretha’s eighteenth studio album, an LP which was produced by the trio of Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin, and Jerry  Wexler.  Simone originally recorded the song for her 1970 album BLACK GOLD, having written the tune to honor her late friend Lorraine Hansberry, playwright of A Raisin in the Sun, and her version climbed to #8 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart.

Aretha’s version was released as a single, but it failed to chart, and if you’re wondering why we’re so certain that Hudson’s version was intended as a tribute to Aretha rather than Ms. Simone, well, that’s an easy one: Hudson is playing Aretha in the upcoming biopic, Respect.

If you’ve never heard Aretha’s version, we’ve got the Spotify link for the whole album available for your listening enjoyment. Educate yourself and enjoy yourself while doing so: it’s a fantastic LP, and you’ll never again have this opportunity to hear it for the first time.


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