Forty-four years ago today,
Aretha Franklin belted out a song that set her career afire, gave an anthem to a growing movement and stole some thunder from one of the biggest Soul singers around.
It was on this day in 1967 that Franklin stepped into the recording booth at the Atlantic Records studios in New York City and recorded her cover of Respect.
The song comes from a different angle than the previous hit released by Otis Redding in 1965, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when looking at the history of this great song.
Redding wasn’t even supposed to record the tune. At the time, Otis’ good friend and touring partner, Speedo Simms, was set to put the song onto wax. He co-wrote the song with a group he was in, which planned to record the tune. When the group broke up, he was left with the song. But get this, Respect actually started out as a slowed-down ballad.
Simms went to FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to record it. With Redding in the studio, Simms tried his best to sing the song. But while Simms was known as a great stage performer, he had never recorded much. … Especially on his own. He folded up and couldn’t perform when the mic was turned on.
Redding then suggested that he should sing the song, with an up-tempo twist. He told Simms they’d be put on the credits as co-writers, but when the single was released on August 15, 1965, Redding was the sole writer listed.
Simms can be heard on Redding’s version, before several choruses, yelling the “Hey, Hey Hey” lines in the background.
Simms never argued with his friend or tried to sue for credit. Two years later, when Redding passed away, he let the matter go to the grave with the great singer.
But just a few months before the plane crash that took Redding’s life, Aretha Franklin recorded her own version of the tune. While Redding’s song was a plea for recognition from his woman, Franklin’s was an amped-up call for respect for herself and all womankind. The song was released in April of ’67 and quickly became the rallying cry for the growing women’s liberation movement and a signature tune in Franklin’s stage shows.
Before performing the song during concerts after Franklin’s release, Redding would often tell the crowd that he was about to sing a song that he once had, but had it stolen from him by a good friend. He truly did. While Redding’s version is a masterpiece, Franklin’s sits upon the mantel of great Soul songs of all time.