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Reader Letter: Some R-E-S-P-E-C-T for a legend

PUBLISHED: 16:24 22 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:24 22 August 2018

Aretha Franklin. Photo: Atlantic Records

Aretha Franklin. Photo: Atlantic Records

Atlantic Records

One reader reflects on Aretha Franklin’s life and career. Do you have memories of the soul singer?

There cannot be many artists from the east of England that do not mourn the passing of Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin.

From a personal perspective, I was sorry to hear the news. In 1983 I produced the documentary Cruising USA explaining the fusion of gospel, blues, hill-billy and country music that became Rock’n’Roll.

But where the gospel music was concerned few could equal the talents of Aretha Franklin. Like Ray Charles before her, she gained her confidence through gospel music piling out heartfelt emotion and actually recorded an album at the age of 14.

She had been in her father’s church choir for which he and others recognised they were dealing with an extraordinary talent. She was raised in Detroit where her father was a Baptist minister. It was some time later she was encouraged to follow the commercial success of her friend Sam Cooke.

We have all heard the hits she sang, largely through Atlantic records and in 1968 she was the top selling artist for that label. In the mid 1980s I was presenting on commercial radio and was astounded when she suddenly zoomed back in to the charts with Whos’ Zoomin’ Who? Aretha was back.

Then followed collaborations with other artists including the Eurythmics and George Michael. In fact Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves, has become something of a sisterhood anthem. In 1990, I presented and produced a one-off programme for the BBC in the west entitled the All-60s CD show, and Aretha’s rendition of I Say a Little Prayer was played.

It had been digitised and sounded as fresh as the day she had recorded it more than 20 years before.

Her own influences were from the highly talented gospel singers Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward, both of whom were friends of her parents.

Artists of today who sing owe much to her and it is unlikely we will ever witness another Queen of Soul. Aretha, we say a little prayer for you and you will always have our R-E-S-P-E-C-T

You can write to us at edpletters@archant.co.uk

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