Archive for the ‘Aretha Franklin’ Category

On a chilly eve in late December 2014, Diane and I traveled from our suburban enclave to center-city Philadelphia, home to the region’s best concert hall (acoustically speaking, that is), the Kimmel Center. It was for no mere concert, however. It was for an audience with the queen – the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. 

She was touring in support of her then-recent Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics.

It was a great, if odd show. The evening began with “(Your Love Is Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” and included such stalwarts as “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You,” “Oh Me Oh My (I’m a Fool for You Baby),” “Ain’t No Way,” “Angel,” “Don’t Play That Song,” “Freeway of Love” and – of course – “Respect,” as well as her cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” which she turned into a medley with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” The Williams Brothers joined her for “Precious Memories.” Also in the set: the Christmas carol “O Holy Night”; “The Way We Were” (which she sang offstage); and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” (Yes, you read that last one right – the Irving Berlin song from Annie Get Your Gun. It was reminiscent of when we saw Van Morrison, decades earlier, cover “Send in the Clowns.”)

Like I said, it was a great, if odd show. 

Other oddities: After 30 minutes, or thereabouts, she left the stage for a full 10 minutes. While the band vamped, we were treated to pictures from her holiday party. And, after singing with the Williams Brothers, she left the stage and let them take the spotlight for a few songs.

It wasn’t the best concert I’ve seen in my life – but it gave glimpses of what Aretha must have been like in a live setting in, say, 1970 or ’71.

I’ve uploaded my video of “Respect” and the Berlin send-off to YouTube (but am leaving it unlisted due to its poor quality):

The Allentown Morning Call reviewed the show, which can be found here. Philadelphia Magazine reviewed it, too. 

And Diane, who saw Aretha once before, asked to chime in:

The weirdness of the show didn’t matter to me—Aretha invited us (the audience) into her world for a bit and played songs that are the heartbeat soundtrack to my life. Jeff surprised me with tickets to this show, which was a good thing, because the first time I saw Aretha was a show in Atlantic City, and I left it rather disgruntled with the idea of never seeing her live again. She barely acknowledged the audience’s existence and seemed put out at being there.

This show—even with the pictures of her party and the Williams Brothers—was a much better memory to have of the greatest woman performer in rock and soul, the icon, the Queen. I walked down to the front when she performed the song that never gets old or careworn. Aretha may be gone but ‘Respect’ and her musical legacy will never suffer with the aging process.

Thank you, Jeff, for getting those tickets!

As I mentioned in Friday’s countdown, “This Guy’s in Love With You” may well have been lost to time if not for Herb Alpert reaching out to Burt Bacharach and asking if he had any old tunes lying around that had never been recorded. Bacharach offered him “This Guy.” Alpert liked the melody, that there was a break where he could insert a trumpet solo, and that it didn’t require vocal gymnastics on his part. He was a horn player, after all, not a singer.

That clip comes from Alpert’s TV special The Beat of the Brass, which aired on CBS on April 22, 1968. The 45 was released the same month, and flew up the charts, eventually spending four weeks at No. 1 and becoming the year’s seventh most popular single.

The song’s soothing, sweet melody can’t be denied; it lingers with you long after the song is over. Lyrically speaking, it’s the declaration of a head-over-heels guy (or gal) laying it on the line to his dream gal (or guy). It works equally well no matter the gender of the singer, or who they’re singing to. Love is love, after all.

Anyway, it quickly became one of those songs every vocalist of note wanted to sing, and I thought it might be fun to spotlight some of those other versions here. Dusty Springfield, for example, recorded it for her Dusty…Definitely LP, released on November 22, 1968 – not that folks in the U.S. heard it (except via import). Dusty was on different record labels in the U.S. and the U.K., and Atlantic – her American home – decided not to release the album. It wouldn’t become available in the States until 1972, when it was included on the A Tribute to Burt Bacharach compilation LP. (It’s since been included on a handful of best-of/rarities collections, including Dusty in London.)

Here’s the audio of her singing it on the All Kinds of Music TV special, which was broadcast in the UK on Christmas Day 1968:

That same November, the Temptations and the Supremes released their own version on Diana Ross & the Supremes Join the Temptations LP.

Before both of them, however, Petula Clark included her rendition of it on her 1968 Petula LP, which was released in the U.S. in September 1968.

Dionne Warwick, a frequent collaborator with Burt Bacharach and Hal David, also recorded it for her Promises, Promises album, which was also released in November 1968. It would become one of her greatest hits when it was released as a single the following year; it rose to No. 7 in the charts.

Also in 1969, Ella Fitzgerald covered it on her Sunshine of Your Love album. Here she is on TV performing it…

Sammy Davis Jr. also laid down a jazzy rendition of it on The Goin’s Great the same year. Here he is in Germany:

In early 1970, Aretha Franklin released her This Girl’s in Love With You album, though the song wasn’t issued as a single.

That same year, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles covered it on their whatlovehas… concept album.

Hundreds of others have covered it in the years since (and thousands more in karaoke bars). In 1982, the Reels – an Aussie pop-rock band – scored a No. 7 hit with it Down Under:

In 2009, jazz-pop singer Jane Moneheit included her dreamy take on the song on her The Lovers, the Dreamers and Me album:

Here’s She & Him (Zooey “One Day You’ll Be Cool” Deschanel & M. Ward) from their 2014 album Classics:

Finally, British singer-songwriter Rumer released her rendition of it on This Girl’s in Love: A Bacharach & David Songbook in late 2016. (That’s Burt Bacharach himself at the song’s start.) It and Dusty’s are my favorite versions, though every rendition has something going for it.

On this day in 1967, a Sunday, the Middle East was headed for the conflict known as the Six-Day War, which would begin on June 5th when Israel launched a preemptive strike against the Arab armies massing at its borders.

Closer to home, American society and culture was continuing to experience rapid (and, in some quarters, welcome) cultural changes, as evidenced by the Chicago Tribune introducing the “Working Woman” column by Carol Kleiman in its lifestyle section. It begins with its raison d’être:

Everyone talks about the working woman – but nobody knows her name. She’s been put under a microscope and dissected by the experts. She’s been told to stay home and do the dishes. And then she’s been told she can have any career she wants if she only lets herself have one.

Everyone talks to the working woman. Everyone has advice. But nobody lets her answer. Meanwhile, millions of young, single work. So do married women, with and without children. And thousands of mature women enter the labor market each year and start working for the first time in their lives or for the first time in years.

This is unique. It’s a revolution in the labor force and in equality for women, and all working women – you and I – are caught up in it. We have problems – and we have possibilities. We are not men, and the business world is still a man’s world.

In all the studies of feminine mystiques and feminine mistakes, no one has let the working woman speak for herself. What does the career girl say her problems are? Does she look at her job as a temporary career until marriage, or a lifetime profession?

Kleiman, as she notes in the column, was in the latter category.

Unless my eyes deceived me, however, this Sunday edition of the Tribune doesn’t mention anything related to youth culture. Oh, it includes a few teen guest columnists weighing in on such subjects as patriotism and volunteerism, articles about folks in the entertainment world and one on classical music, but not one mention of any of this week’s top pop releases or hits or even Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was due out in the U.S. on June 2nd.

Not surprising, of course, but annoying to me all the same.

Speaking of career gals and lonely hearts: 16-year-old young Wendy D. was eyeing a career in education; and, to that end, she belonged to the Future Teachers of America club at her high school. As for lonely hearts – well, she certainly wasn’t one.

Valerie S., a few years younger than Wendy, was less about the lovin’ and more about studying and playing games. Ping pong!

I share their experiences because, as I noted in the Top 5 for April 22, 1967, when we think of bygone ages – especially one as romanticized as the 1960s – we often imagine them as totally different from the present. The reality is often more mundane, however. Tectonic cultural shifts were underfoot, true, but the vast majority of kids, such as these two, still woke up, went to school, hung out with friends, dated and – as Wendy will in short order – dealt with strep throat. Some things change. Some things don’t.

Oh, and here’s one other thing that attracted my eye while browsing the Tribune’s Sunday edition – an advertisement for Sony’s latest, greatest 12-transistor portable radio. It and radios like it, for those too young to know, were the iPods of the day.

Anyway, enough of the rambling intro and onward to today’s Top 5: May 28, 1967, with songs pulled from the May 27th chart over at Weekly Top 40. (And, yes, I’ve featured a few of these songs before, but not these specific clips.)

1) The Young Rascals – “Groovin’.” The No. 1 song in the land, for the second week in a row, is this gloriously evocative song of summer.

2) Aretha Franklin – “Respect.” Jumping from No. 5 to No. 2 is this classic from the Queen of Soul.

3) Neil Diamond – “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon.” Entering the Top 10 is Neil Diamond’s fourth single for Bang Records. It possesses a dramatic, brooding melody and lyrics that…well, what can be said about “Girl, you’ll be a woman soon/Please come take my hand/Girl, you’ll be a woman soon/Soon you’ll need a man”? That they reflected a certain mindset of their time? Or that they were just…creepy? You be the judge.

4) Eric Burdon & the Animals – “When I Was Young.” Dropping from No. 15 to 22 is this classic counterculture ode inspired by Burdon’s father.

5) Dionne Warwick – “Alfie.” The week’s No. 37 song is what is now considered to be one of Dionne Warwick’s signature tunes. The Burt Bacharach-Hal David song, which was the theme to the 1966 movie of the same name, was originally sung by Cilia Black over the end credits for the U.K. release and earned her a Top 10 U.K. hit. For the U.S. release, however, Cher sang it, and her version stalled at No. 32 on the American charts. Warwick, who’s joked that she was the 43rd person to sing the song, recorded it only at the insistence of Bacharach, who’d wanted her to sing it all along. (That idea was nixed by the movie studio.) It would reach No. 15. Here she is, in 1972, singing it on Mike Douglas’ afternoon talk show:

And two bonuses…

6) Scott McKenzie – “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).” One of the theme songs to the Summer of Love, this hippie paean was penned by John Phillips (of the Mamas and the Papas) in order to promote the Monterey Pop Festival. This clip finds McKenzie lip-syncing the words on French TV…

7) And, finally: The times they were a-changin’. That’s for sure. On Thursday of the following week, aka June 1st, Jefferson Airplane flew onto the set of American Bandstand and sang the trippy “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love,” which had jumped from No. 22 to No. 17 and was about to rise even higher, No. 9, by week’s end.