The queen of soul is here for my third playlist in The Legend Slot. That’s right Lady Soul herself, Aretha Franklin, is the third legend in this years series. In the words of the great Jack Black (in what is one of my favourite films EVER) “Everyone wants to party with Aretha!’. So, despite the current circumstances, I’m hoping that this playlist will get you in the party mood.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Aretha Franklin was a singer, songwriter and pianist who started her career as a child when she sang at her local church in Detroit, Michigan. Signing to Columbia Records at 18, and then to Atlantic Records in her mid-20s, Aretha gained massive success with iconic hits such as Respect, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and I Say a Little Prayer. In 1987, she became the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and throughout her 50+ year career, she received honours including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was even listed as the greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone.
Now Aretha Franklin might have had 38 albums (even more than my first legend Elton John), but I’ll let her off since she was the queen of soul after all. A true legend. There were actually a few albums that I couldn’t find on Spotify so this playlist only covers around 30 of her albums. I did, however, manage to source a few of the missing albums on YouTube and gave them a listen as well (even if they aren’t in my final playlist).
The Legend Slot: Aretha Franklin
What that I loved about listening to Aretha this month was how easy it was to do it. Aretha just had one of those voices that you could listen to for hours. It’s so smooth. So listening to her entire back catalogue was actually a fairly easy challenge. I always seemed to be in the mood for her music.
I have to admit though that I definitely preferred her earlier music. Which is reflected in the tracks that I’ve featured in the playlist. I don’t actually think I put any of her tracks past the 1980s in the playlist. That’s not so say that I didn’t enjoy her post-80s tunes. It was more of a case of her having SO MANY albums. And the earlier songs are a bit more my thing.
A Few of My Favourites…
If you’ve checked out last years series Music Monthly, then you might’ve spotted a few of Aretha’s tracks creep into my motown and funk playlists. I think she even made it into the top 100 tracks that I listened to last year as well! So I guess it won’t be a surprise to know that some of my favourites are Chain of Fools, Think and Respect. But another favourite that I always seem to forget about is You Send Me. If you’re a fan of the festive film The Holiday then you might already recognise it from the final scene in the film.
‘Lady Soul’ (1968) – Aretha Franklin
Something that I wasn’t aware of was that Aretha actually didn’t write a lot of her songs. Quite a few of them were covers of other artists. She even recorded an entire tribute album to Dinah Washington. I already knew that her iconic track (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman was written by Carole King but I didn’t know that Respect, for example, was written by Otis Redding. I think little discoveries like that was what made this playlist that bit more exciting to put together. Not only was I discovering new songs of Aretha’s but I was also discovering who wrote some of my favourites.
Well let’s start by saying there were bloody loads of them. She just has so many tracks that I was bound to discover hundreds of new songs. Kicking off my new favourites is actually the first song on her first album. Won’t Be Long from her album Aretha in Person. It just sums up a young Aretha for me in one track, and really sets the tone for her early music career.
‘Yeah!!!’ (1965) – Aretha Franklin
You might know already, if you’ve been following my music posts in the past, that I love a sample. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the term “sample or sampling” when it comes to music, it’s pretty much just taking a section of a song and using it in another track. It could be anything from a few lyrics to a drum combo to a whole verse of a song.
I’m sure you will’ve found yourself listening to a track and suddenly thought, ‘I recognise this!’. And usually this’ll be because the song has been sampled from another track.
So, anyway, when I was listening to Aretha’s Spirit in The Dark (1970) album and I came across the albums title track, I instantly recognised the opening section of the song. It was used in Kanye West’s track School Spirit from The College Dropout (2007). I had absolutely no idea that Kanye had sampled Aretha, so discovering the connection on that track was amazing.
I could go on for absolutely ages working my way through all the new discoveries I made throughout this month, but I’ll leave it there. Instead, I want you to tell me which tracks are completely new to you. Maybe even Aretha Franklin is completely new to you. Either way I want to know!
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Read next: The Legend Slot: Elton John.
*Photography taken from Wikipedia and Getty.