By Hans Ebert
The song “Respect” is such an amazing history lesson. Written in 1965 by Otis Redding for Speedo Sims, what first drew me into the song was the guitar playing of Steve Cropper. I bought any recording that featured him. Was he white or black? Black, I thought when things like this mattered. Times change. Maybe. We grow up. We embrace the music. We go back and learn where it all came from. It’s a rainbow connection.
Those were the days when some of us bought records because of the session guys involved. Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Booker T Jones. Jones was one of the first musicians I interviewed as a young journalist. It was at a dinner at the Aberdeen Floating Restaurant. He had been married to Priscilla Coolridge, and here I was sitting next to the man who had given the world the instrumental “Green Onions” and released as Booker T and the MGs- drummer Al Jackson, Dunn and Steve Cropper. I was with greatness.
There were so many more questions I could have asked, but the conversation centred around the guitarists Steve Cropper, and Cornell Dupree and bass guitarist Jimmy Jamerson.
Looking back, I guess it must have amused Jones to meet a kid reporter sent to do a man’s job but there as a music fan. I really can’t remember what I wrote. But this is why many of us got into music. The music and those who wrote it and the musicians who brought this music alive. We were fans and students. It was about Respect.
By now, we all know what Lady Soul has given the world and the amazing woman behind the music and that Voice behind so much. But before Lady Soul, there was Aretha Franklin.
Her version of “Respect” was recorded two years after the Otis Redding version. Producer Jerry Wexler brought it to her. She made it her own, playing piano on the track and many involved in the recording- like her sisters- adding pieces to the whole.
“Respect”, very possibly the first #MeToo song long before hashtags and celebrity movements, hit me between the ears. This was when thinking I could be the new Dylan and give George Harrison or Cat Stevens a run for their money by morphing into their likeness. That was style over substance and part of the whole music thing because chicks dug it. But away from cultivating an image, it always came back to the music and musicians.
At that time, many of us kids still hadn’t accepted black music or music by black artists. What did we know? They just didn’t have that image thing going. Until Hendrix came along. He did okay with chicks.
I, meanwhile, was mesmerised by Diana Ross. So was my old man. That voice. The way she moved. Those shoulders. That mouth. Those teeth. She reigned Supreme. She was sex personified.
So while listening to the sensitive singer-songwriters, the white pop and Rock bands and trying to cultivate an image to help get laid, there was all that music from Motown, Stax/Volt and Brother James singing how it was a “Man’s Man’s Man’s World” with that amazing string arrangement by Sammy Lowe.
There were then those two versions of “Respect” with Otis Redding’s recording featuring Steve Cropper and Aretha Franklin turning the song inside out with the funk guitar curves of Cornell Dupree and Jimmy Jamerson.
There’s an entire music education system in those recordings just as there is in her interpretations of “A Change Is Gonna Come” and “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman”. One I had first heard by my first favourite singer with Bobby Darin. Sam Cooke.
“Natural Woman” made me a fan of the songs of Gerry Goffin and especially Carole King. It’s what still makes me hold onto my vinyl copy of Tapestry. Love that record and especially the song “So Far Away”.
Aretha Franklin is no longer with us. Yes, her music lives on. But this music leads to other music and the musicians behind the music and where they ended up and everything they have given the world of music.
It’s an amazing journey of discovery and rediscovering music that just might have fallen through the cracks.
For me, it’s going back in order to move forward and reeducate myself as to how I am here with music today and what brought me to this place.
#ArethaFranklin #music #SteveCropper #OtisRedding #DianaRoss #CaroleKing