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by Aretha Franklin

Respect Introduction

For decades, this song has been empowering listeners, and providing them with the certainty that if they ever got the word "respect" in a spelling bee, it would be like a free pass. It's not hard to see why this is Aretha Franklin's signature song, and one of the best-loved tracks of the 20th century. After all, everyone can relate to the feeling of wanting his or her fair share of dignity and recognition.

If the story started and ended there, this would still be a great song: the lyrics get us pumped up, and Franklin blows us away with her fabulous voice. But—you guessed it—there's more to the story.

In the 1960s, African Americans and women were struggling to be recognized as equals in society. Things were heating up, but progress wasn't coming easily. So when a black woman told the world that she wasn't going to take it anymore, a whole lot of people listened. Franklin was a strong figure in her own right, but the social forces that she captured in her song were even stronger.

In 1967, Aretha Franklin's "Respect" defined a moment. In retrospect, "Respect" defined a generation.

About the Song

ArtistAretha Franklin Musician(s)Willie Bridges (sax), Charles Chalmers (sax), Gene Chrisman (drums) (Roger Hawkins is generally credited as being the drummer on this track), Tommy Cogbill (bass), Dewey Oldham (keyboards), and Curtis Ousley (sax), Carolyn Franklin and Erma Franklin (background vocals)
AlbumI Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You
Writer(s)Otis Redding
Producer(s)Jerry Wexler
Learn to play: Tablature
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Shmoop Connections

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"People went bananas," says radio DJ Louise Bishop about the release of "Respect" and its sister single, "I Never Loved A Man." "Absolutely bananas… I just think that it was what people were waiting for."

Why were people so desperate for Franklin's cover of a cutesy Otis Redding song about a mildly dysfunctional relationship? Was it the song's obvious relevance to the burgeoning women's movement? Or perhaps the song's reiteration of the most basic demands of the Civil Rights Movement ("a little respect")? Whatever it was, Franklin took a tune about love, sex, and money, and turned it into a tune about nothing short of social revolution. But, you must be asking, didn't people do stuff like that all the time in the 1960s? What's so different about "Respect"? Read on to find out.

On the Charts

"Respect" was a runaway hit, topping the US Billboard Hot 100, Pop Singles and Rhythm and Blues Singles charts in 1967.

The song won a Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording and Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance by a Female in 1968.

"Respect" was named #5 on Rolling Stone's 2003 list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

"Respect" was #4 on the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts list of Songs of the Century.

Aretha Franklin was named the #1 Greatest Singer of All Time by Rolling Stone.

In 1987, Franklin became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

As of 2011, Franklin has scored more top forty singles than any other female performer in history, according to her biography at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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