The Story of... 'Respect' by Aretha Franklin
10 August 2021, 11:19
‘Respect’ by Aretha Franklin is an iconic song that quickly became a powerful anthem for an important moment in history.
Aretha’s version of the Otis Redding track was released in 1967. It became the soundtrack to both civil rights and feminist movements at the time of its release. Do you know the story behind ‘Respect’?
Read more: Aretha Franklin and Martin Luther King’s extraordinary friendship explored in ‘Respect’ movie
Do you know who wrote the original ‘Respect’ track? Did you know that Aretha’s version of the song played a part in the US civil rights movement?
Here’s everything you need to know about ‘Respect’ by Aretha Franklin.
Who wrote ‘Respect’?
'Respect' was originally written by Otis Redding. He released the track in 1965, and it appeared on his album titled Otis Blue.
What are the main differences between the two tracks?
There are two distinct differences in the sounds between Otis’ and Aretha’s ‘Respect’ tracks.
Otis’ version was a man making a plea with his love whereas Aretha changed the arrangement and added additional layers to the track.
These changes included adding backup vocals and the iconic and catchy spelling of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” to the chorus. Aretha's version quickly changed the meaning of the song and it became an empowerment anthem.
Read more: Jennifer Hudson visits Aretha Franklin's family as new film clip shows her singing 'Respect'
Speaking to Elle in 2016, Aretha recalled where she was when she first heard Otis’ version of the song and thought that she could do “something different” with it.
Aretha explained: "I had just moved out of my father's home and had my own little apartment. I was cleaning the place, and I had a good radio station on.
“I loved it. I loved it! 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."
Aretha also modernised the track for its time and added extra lyrics to the song.
“The term 'Sock it to me!' was a big, big thing in our neighbourhood—all the kids were saying it," Aretha added.
What’s the story behind Aretha’s version of ‘Respect’?
‘Respect’ is Aretha’s signature song; it became a soundtrack for the racial and gendered political movements of its time when it was released in 1967. Aretha was aware of its power and said that it depicted “the need of a nation” and added that it was of “monumental significance”.
“It [reflected] 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,” Aretha wrote in her memoir, Aretha: From These Roots.
“It was also one of the battle cries of the civil rights movement. The song took on monumental significance.”
Where did ‘Respect’ land in the music charts?
‘Respect’ peaked at number ten and spent 14 weeks on the UK chart when it was first released. In the US, it reached number one on the Billboard 100 chart.
Who else has covered the track?
Aretha’s version of ‘Respect’ became the more popular version of the song. One of the better known covers of ‘Respect’ was performed by Diana Ross and The Supremes and The Temptations in 1968. It has also been covered by artists such as Stevie Wonder and Kelly Clarkson.