R is for Respect

How do I write about the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin and do justice about her first #1 song, one that went on to be one of her signature tunes?  This song became one of the most important recordings of the 20th century.  ‘Respect’ was in the first class of songs to make it into the of the National Recording Registry in 2002.  First off, Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ is one of the greatest Soul tracks of all time, OK that was a pretty good start, but let’s not make this post about me as that would not be showing Aretha Lady Soul the respect that she deserves.  This song was written by Otis Redding and he recorded a slightly different version and he released this song first.  Franklin put her graceful touch on this one, making it her own and taking it away from Otis Redding.  Or maybe it is like she says, that it was just the right song recorded at the right time.

I tried to find out if Aretha Franklin paid any royalty money to Otis for using what should be his song, although it was more superior now, but I didn’t find anything.  I did stumble across this article about 2014 bill to change the odd restriction where music recorded before 1972 was not eligible for royalty money and this bill was named the Respect Act in honor of the song.  A lobbying campaign was titled “It’s a Matter of R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” which is supported by both Pandora and SiriusXM and also had Ms. Franklin’s approval.  And a current bill in Congress, the Music Modernization Act, would force digital radio services to pay royalties for songs recorded before 1972.  Aretha knew that removing the copywrite protection from all pre-1972 sound recordings was not fair.  It seems that Aretha Franklin was fighting so that others could get the respect that they deserved.

Aretha Franklin underwent a long period of “apprenticeship” before she achieved her breakthrough as a pop star in 1967.  After a less than stellar career at Columbia Records, from 1960 to 1966, she went over to Atlantic Records, where Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler encouraged her to record strong material well suited to her spectacular voice and engaged stellar and empathetic musicians to back her up.  Aretha switched to Atlantic because she was seeking to upgrade and restructure her voice by returning to her gospel roots.  ‘Respect’ won Aretha her first two Grammys, launched her most resonant period as an artist and showcased Aretha’s genius at musical arrangement, by modernizing and keeping it classic at the same time.  Her sister Carolyn Franklin did the vocal arrangements.  Aretha used her incisive knack for tapping into the current of popular culture at any given time.  Some people consider this song as being off one of the most important pop music reinventions in American history, as it allows society as a whole to understand what respect truly means.  Aretha flipped the message, by embellishing on Otis Redding’s song, which was about a man that came home for dinner and demanded respect from his wife, because he was supporting them.  She reversed all the pronouns and made this song about a woman who deserved to be treated with respect.

This was the second single from Aretha’s eleventh studio album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.  In 2002, the Library of Congress added the song it to the National Recording Registry.  In 2003, this album was placed at the 83rd position on the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine.  Aretha’s version of this song went on to become one of the most successful tracks of her career.  In 2004, the song ‘Respect’ was ranked at the #5 position on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  The track won Aretha her first Grammy winning for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee in March of 1942, Aretha Franklin was largely self-taught, and a gifted singer and pianist.  She got her start singing in front of her father’s congregation, a Baptist preacher Reverend Clarence La Vaughan.  They traveled in a revival show, and she made friends with gospel greats such as Mahalia Jackson, Sam Cooke and Clara Ward.  She became a mother for the first time at the age of 12, having a son named Clarence.  Two years later Aretha had another child, her second son Edward.  Franklin would later have two more sons, Ted White, Jr. and Kecalf Cunningham.  In 1960, she went to New York, where she signed with Columbia Records and she released the album Aretha in 1961.  In 1966, she signed to Atlantic deciding to be in a move, where producer Jerry Wexler encouraged her to embrace her classic soul-and-gospel sound.  Wexler shuttled Franklin to the Florence Alabama Musical Emporium (FAME) recording studios.

Aretha recorded this in New York City with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, a group of four studio musicians who also played sessions in Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama before starting their own Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.  Jerry Wexler produced this, Tommy Cogbill played bass on this and keyboardist Spooner Oldham played organ on the track and besides singing Aretha accompanied herself on piano.  King Curtis and Charles Chalmers both played the sax and Aretha was backed up by her sisters Erma and Carolyn Franklin or The Sweet Inspirations.  Arif Mardin was a young engineer assisting Jerry Wexler when she recorded ‘Respect’ and he said this was like making a soup.  Where the guitar player would play a lick and they would say “Keep that, but do this.”  Aretha would go next door and rehearse the background parts with her sisters, while Arif would write down chord changes and be the liaison between the control room and the musicians.

In Franklin’s version of ‘Respect’, a young, confident, independent woman tells her man that she does everything he wants from her and doesn’t see any reason why he keeps disrespecting her.  She starts off asking for a little bit of respect from him when he comes home.  She knows that when he is out, he is fooling around and she tells him that she is not just laying around all day at home and by the end of this song she is demanding nothing short of respect.  Aretha made this song a person-to-person conversation about being willing to give someone respect, but saying that at the same time that she would like to have that respect given back to her.  Aretha’s version went on to become one of the most famous female empowerment anthems of all time.  In her 1998 autobiography titled Aretha: From These Roots, the ‘Queen of Soul’ said the lyrics speak to anyone who feels unappreciated.  In addition to being a strong symbol of female empowerment, ‘Respect’ became a powerful anthem for African Americans and other people all over the world who were being treated as if they were insignificant.  This song went on to become a battle cry of the civil rights movement in the United States.

‘Respect’ made two phrases very popular in the United States and abroad.  The line “Take care, TCB” from the song popularized the slang phrase “take/taking care of business” in the late 1960s in America.  To take care of business basically means doing what needs to be done.  The repeated line, “Sock it to me” basically means “give it me”.  Aretha Franklin used this “sock it to me” phrase, because she wanted her man to give her respect.  The massive success of ‘Respect’ contributed in making this phrase a household name in America during the late 1960s.  In 1968, Richard Nixon used this phrase when he appeared on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as an effort to reach out to younger voters.  They tried to get Nixon to say, “you bet your sweet bippy”, but he didn’t go for that, so they settled on “sock it to me”.

In 1987, Aretha became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  In December of 1994, Franklin, at age 52, becomes the youngest person ever chosen for the Kennedy Center Honors.  In September 1999, she receives the National Medal of Arts and Humanities Award from President Bill Clinton.  In November 2005, President George Bush presented her with the 2005 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil award.  In 2008 she won her 18th Grammy Award, making her one of the most honored artists in Grammy history.  In October 2014, Franklin’s cover of Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ reached #47 on Billboard’s R&B chart, becoming her 100th charting single, and she’s the first woman to reach this Billboard chart hit milestone.  Franklin released numerous singles, of which many are considered classics.  Franklin passed away in 2018 due to complications from pancreatic cancer, but her music lives on.

Hey, what you want
(Oo) Baby, I got
(Oo) What you need
(Oo) Do you know I got it?
(Oo) All I’m askin’
(Oo) Is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit)
Hey baby (just a little bit) when you get home
(Just a little bit) mister (just a little bit)

I ain’t gonna do you wrong while you’re gone
Ain’t gonna do you wrong (oo) ‘cause I don’t wanna (oo)
All I’m askin’ (oo)
Is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit)
Baby (just a little bit) when you get home (just a little bit)
Yeah (just a little bit)

I’m about to give you all of my money
And all I’m askin’ in return, honey
Is to give me my profits

When you get home (just a, just a, just a, just a)
Yeah baby (just a, just a, just a, just a)
When you get home (just a little bit)
Yeah (just a little bit) Do it for me now, just a little bit

Ooo, your kisses (oo)
Sweeter than honey (oo)
And guess what? (oo)
So is my money (oo)
All I want you to do (oo) for me
Is give it to me when you get home (re, re, re, re)
Yeah baby (re, re, re, re)
Whip it to me (respect, just a little bit)
When you get home, now (just a little bit)

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me
R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Take care, TCB
Oh (sock it to me, sock it to me
Sock it to me, sock it to me)
A little respect (sock it to me, sock it to me
Sock it to me, sock it to me)
Whoa, babe (just a little bit)
A little respect (just a little bit)
I get tired (just a little bit)
Keep on tryin’ (just a little bit)
You’re runnin’ out of foolin’ (just a little bit)
And I ain’t lyin’ (just a little bit)

‘spect
When you come home (re, re, re, re)
Or you might walk in (respect, just a little bit)
And find out I’m gone (just a little bit)
I got to have (just a little bit)
A little respect (just a little bit)

10 thoughts on “R is for Respect

  1. I love Otis and he was a great song writer but Aretha made it into a classic…She could make about anything sound good.

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