Musician Biographies » Aretha Franklin » Success at Atlantic - Atlantic's Offer, Down To Alabama, A Tough Marriage, The First Hits, Off And Running

Success at Atlantic - Off And Running

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Aretha's first album on the Atlantic label, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, was released in March 1967. Partly due to the success of the song “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You),” the album was a big hit. The next big single to hit the charts was “Respect.” With its driving energy and catchy backup vocals, the song became Aretha's signature number. It also won her two Grammy Awards, for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording and Best R & B Solo Vocal Performance, Female.

From Rhythm and Blues to Soul

Rhythm and blues (R & B) developed during the post–World War II years in America. The “rhythm” came from drumbeats and the electric bass and guitar lines that were the backbone of so many danceable tunes in the 1940s and 1950s. The “blues” of R & B incorporated the vocal traditions of southern blues songs and included gospel traditions as well. In the 1950s, teenagers, in particular, began listening to R & B, which provided them with music they could dance to. Individual performers began to make their mark with louder, jumpier tunes, including Chuck Berry (“Johnny B. Goode”) and Little Richard (“Tutti Frutti”).

Soul music was R & B music of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was a time of growing pride for many African Americans, as major strides were made during the civil rights movement. Soul music gave voice to that pride and, as with Aretha's music, addressed hard-hitting issues of love, respect, sex, and freedom.

Soul music had different categories. Chicago soul was rooted in gospel, like the work of Aretha and Sam Cooke and vocal groups like the Supremes and the Temptations. Southern soul made stars of Ray Charles and James Brown, combining traditional blues with string orchestras and other unusual arrangements. There were even a few white soul artists, like the British singer Dusty Springfield.

Soul music continued to evolve: funk and fusion music grew from soul, and later hip-hop and even rap found inspiration from the same sources.

Fun Fact!

The Queen of Soul's first name has appeared in many of her album titles. She recorded two albums called Aretha. The first one was released in 1961, the other in 1986. She has also released albums titled Aretha Arrives, Aretha Now, Aretha in Paris, and Aretha After Hours, to name a few.

Aretha herself wrote “Dr. Feelgood,” which was another smash hit. The racy song told the humorous story of a woman who just wants to stay home with her man. Aretha's delivery of the song was very sexy, and it allowed her to vocalize in a way she'd never done on any of her material at Columbia Records.

Aretha quickly became recognized for the honest and emotional delivery of her songs. This honesty was particularly appealing in “Respect” and “Dr. Feelgood” because they featured Aretha as an independent woman, demanding satisfaction from her life and her partners. “Respect” and other songs also featured call-and-response style vocals with her backup singers, very much in the gospel singing tradition.

Success at Atlantic - From Rhythm And Blues To Soul [next] [back] Success at Atlantic - The First Hits

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