Classic Album: Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You

Soul gushes from every line, every word, every chord and every note
Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You
The first lady of soul took the world by storm with her 1967 release ‘I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)’. It doesn’t just ooze deep soul, but has it gushing out of every line, every word, every chord and every note. Released days before Aretha’s 25th birthday, it was a new beginning for her and R&B.

Aretha had been raised by her Baptist preacher father, CL Franklin, after the death of her mother when she was just six-years-old. Despite her religious upbringing, she had two children by the age of 16, who were left to be raised by their grandmother when their mother left to seek a better life in New York. It would be almost another ten years before she found the recognition she deserved and worked so hard for.

She was massively in debt when she parted company with her previous record label, Colombia, and signed to Atlantic in 1966. It was producer Jerry Wexler that transformed the still-young hopeful into what she became and remains to be today, the Queen of Soul. Franklin said herself of this period: “When I went to Atlantic, they just sat me down at the piano and the hits started coming.” Wexler helped Aretha turn her back on the jazzy sing-a-longs she had been recording and it was with ‘I Never Loved A Man…’ that she started doing what she became known and loved for. She brought gospel, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll together. The girl from Detroit brought the church into the forefront of mainstream music. If Jesus had returned to walk the earth in 1967, ‘I Never Loved A Man…’ would be playing behind his every step.

Nine albums had come before on Colombia, but none so groundbreaking as ‘I Never Loved a Man…’ It made such a wave that, 40 years later, it is still Considered the best soul album in the world and one of the best albums ever made. It features some of her best known songs including her first Billboard number one pop hit and number ten in the UK. Otis Redding’s ‘Respect’ exudes freedom, sexuality, love and faith.

Despite only making it to number two in the charts and with total album sales of only 500,000 at the time, it put Aretha up there with the daddies of soul - Otis, Ray Charles, Al Green, Marvin Gaye. It was the album that helped Aretha find her voice and become a voice for thousands of other women. ‘Respect’, recorded on Valentine’s Day and opening the album with its uplifting and exciting piano introduction, became an anthem for women’s and racial rights, while the rest of the album offered strength, passion and guidance to others. Two days after its recording, Aretha Franklin Day was declared in Detroit.

No one can sing the blues like Aretha. Ray Charles’ ‘Drown In My Own Tears’, previously recorded by Dinah Washington, tugged so hard at the heartstrings, you could almost hear them snap. It is followed by some renditions of her contemporaries’ finest song writing, like Sam Cooke’s ‘Good Times’ and the political ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’. Her versions stand side by side with the originals, with some being more recognisable with the Aretha makeover.

Aretha also penned some of the classics herself, with the help of her then husband and manager Ted White or younger sister Carolyn Franklin, such as ‘Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream’, ‘Save Me’ and the tender ‘Baby, Baby, Baby’. She made new songs by some of the world’s greatest musicians and writers, such as ‘Soul Serenade’ by Luther Dixon and Curtis Ousley, the real name of sax god King Curtis, her own. ‘Dr Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)’, with its rolling Hammond and powerful bluesy brass, was also written by the Franklin/White collaboration and is seen as one of the best original numbers on the album, but it is one of a collection that most soul singers could only dream of. Among the many single hits there was also the album’s title track, which reached number nine in the billboard chat, and ‘Do Right Man - Do Right Woman’.

During the recordings at the Florence Alabama Music Emporium in Muscle Shoals, a drunken brawl meant sessions at the famous studios had to be put on hold. The album almost wasn’t finished, until Aretha and all the Muscle Shoals musicians reconvened in New York to complete the project. ‘I Never Loved a Man…’ is an album where Aretha - a young, black woman - is in control. Aretha played piano and directed the band, which helped create the strong, rich and sublime with its horn and rhythm sections. With the great King Curtis on tenor sax and her little sister on backing vocals, the whole package is one to be proud of and sets the scene for Aretha’s many successes in the years to come.

Despite releasing such greats as ‘Say A Little Prayer’ the following year, Aretha didn’t score another number one in the US until 1987 with ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)’, with George Michael.

Words by Gemma Hampson

Released: 10th March 1967
Produced by: Jerry Wexler

Fact File

Track Listing:
01 ‘Respect’ (Otis Redding)
02 ‘Drown In My Own Tears’ (Henry Glover)
03 ‘I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)’ (Ronny Shannon)
04 ‘Soul Serenade’ (Curtis Ousley, Luther Dixon)
05 ‘Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream’ (Aretha Franklin, Ted White)
06 ‘Baby, Baby, Baby’ (A. Franklin, Carolyn Franklin)
07 ‘Dr. Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business’) (A. Franklin, White)
08 ‘Good Times’ (Sam Cooke)
09 ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’ (Dan Penn, Chips Moman)
10 ‘Save Me’ (Ousley, A. Franklin, C. Franklin)
11 ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ (Cooke)

Musicians
Aretha Franklin - Piano, Vocals
King Curtis - Sax (Tenor)
Carolyn Franklin - Vocals (background)
Willie Bridges - Sax (Baritone)
Charles Chalmers - Sax (Tenor)
Gene Chrisman - Drums
Tommy Cogbill - Bass
Tom Dowd - Engineer
Jimmy Johnson - Guitar
Melvin Lastie - Trumpet, Cornet
Chips Moman - Guitar
Dewey Oldham - Organ

1967: In The News
• ‘Puppet On A String’ by Sandie Shaw
wins the Eurovision Song Contest for
the UK.
• Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu are
married in Las Vegas.
• Celtic F.C. are the first British team to
reach the European Cup final and beat
Inter Milan 2-1.
• BBC Radio 1 is launched.

1967: Albums
‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’
The Beatles
‘Buffalo Springfield’
Buffalo Springfield
‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’
The Velvet Underground
‘Forever Changes’
Love
‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’
The Rolling Stones

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