Arts & Culture

'Respect' Was Originally Written by a Man-But Aretha Franklin Made It Legendary

Her most famous song has a surprising history.
IMAGE GETTY IMAGES/ MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES
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Legendary artist Aretha Franklin passed away Thursday morning after several days in hospice care, a representative confirmed to the AP. Though the 76-year-old is gone, she will continue to live on through her music, which included hits like “Natural Woman,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” and, of course, “Respect.”

When you think of Franklin, chances are you think of the latter. After all, the 1967 track propelled her to stardom and earned her the title of the Queen of Soul. But it turns out the song was never intended for her—or any woman, for that matter—to sing.

Franklin’s “Respect” was actually a re-recording of a piece by Otis Redding, NPR reports. And his version sounds very different from what you're likely familiar with; there’s no spelling of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” and no backup singers.

“I felt I could do something different with it, and my sister Carolyn, who was an RCA recording artist, and I got together on the background,” Franklin told Elle, also elaborating on the now famous lyrics. "The term 'Sock it to me!' was a big, big thing in our neighborhood—all the kids were saying it," she explained. The same goes for TCB, an acronym for “taking care of business.”

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"R-E-S-P-E-C-T!"

"A Natural Woman" or "Chain of Fools" takes my top spot.

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Listen to Franklin perform “Respect” in 1967 and it’s easy to tell the difference: The song turns from a plea from a man to the woman he loves to a woman’s demand for, well, respect. Later, it became an anthem for the civil rights movement, and has also been covered by many iconic performers like Diana Ross and the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and Kelly Clarkson.

It turns out Redding didn’t care much for Franklin’s reimagining, but eventually gave in. In 1967, he introduced the catchy tune at the Monterey Pop Festival by saying, “This next song is a song that a girl took away from me. A good friend of mine, this girl, she just took the song, but I’m still going to do it anyway.” Redding’s estate still makes money off Franklin’s recording, according to The Boston Globe, because the royalties went to the writer, not the performer.

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Franklin looks back with pride on the legacy of her music. In her autobiography, Aretha: From These Roots, she called the song “an ongoing blessing in my life.” She wrote, "It was the need of a nation, the need of the average man and woman in the street, the businessman, the mother, the fireman, the teacher—everyone wanted respect.”

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From: Country Living US

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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