October 2018

Timeless Aretha

A Baker’s Dozen of Great Performances by Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin rose from singing gospel in her father’s Detroit church to become not only an R&B star but an American icon of the 1960s – aptly dubbed the Queen of Soul. The singer had hits in the 1970s and 1980s, too – and she even moved President Barack Obama to tears with a Kennedy Center performance in 2015. She passed away in August 2018, but her music will never die, with Franklin’s golden era ranging from jazzy early recordings made for Columbia to epochal soul hits recorded with musicians from Alabama’s Muscle Shoals Sound Studio for Atlantic. Franklin’s later output included a collaboration with Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones on her cover of the band’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” released on the 1986 album, Aretha – which is the subject of the first In Tune Classic Album Covers column (about Andy Warhol’s cover portrait), published in the October issue. This playlist includes that track, plus such highpoints as her definitive interpretation of Gershwin’s “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” fresh versions of songs by her heroes (Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” and Ray Charles’ “Drown in My Own Tears”) and a scene-stealing cover of a downhome rock’n’roll tune (“The Weight,” by the Band). Also here: the funky classic “Chain of Fools,” a gospel-charged re-envisioning of “You Are My Sunshine” and a live church performance (“Mary, Don’t You Weep”), as well as some deep ballads and a couple of her most famous soul hits.

Bradley Bambarger