This is the first of the exactly 22 just a little bits that pepper "Respect" from start to finish... and that's not even counting the eight additional just a's.
The background vocals on "Respect" – sung by Aretha's sisters Erma and Carolyn Franklin – give the song much of its unforgettably propulsive energy. In fact, they almost transcend the very idea of "background" vocals, interplaying with Aretha's lead to create a vocal onslaught clearly greater than the sum of its parts.
Is Aretha asking for her man to give her money... or something else?
Though pretty tame by today's standards, the lyrics of "Respect" definitely bring a strong streak of double entendre. There's nothing obscene going on here, but there's no question that this is one sexy song. And that's no accident.
This has to be the most famous lyrical spell-out in modern pop music history.
Van Morrison ("G-L-O-R-I-A"), the Village People ("Y-M-C-A"), and the Bay City Rollers ("S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night") might all beg to differ, but we think Aretha takes the cake in this hotly contested category...
T-C-B is short for Taking Care of Business.
This is one of the lines that separates Aretha Franklin's rendition of "Respect" from Otis Redding's. Aretha's acronym has generated both discussion and confusion. Many hear it as "take care . . . T-C-P" and consequently give the line some sort of civil rights reading—as in "take care (of) the colored people." Given the historical context of the song and the way in which it was embraced within the civil rights movement, that reading might be plausible... but it's probably also wrong. TCB was commonly understood to mean taking care of business. Most accounts credit Aretha's sister Carolyn, who helped arrange the vocals and sang backup, with proposing the line.
Before 1966, few people had heard the phrase "sock it to me."
Aretha added this line to the song—it was not in Otis Redding's original version. Mitch Ryder's 1966 song "Sock it to Me Baby" introduced the phrase to the mass music market. When Franklin used it in her 1967 smash hit, the phrase entered the popular lexicon for good. But what does "sock it to me" mean, anyhow? Producer Jerry Wexler alluded to a specific, very sexual meaning for the phrase: "More respect also involved sexual attention of the highest order. What else would 'sock it to me' mean?" ("500 Greatest Songs," Rolling Stone, 9 December 2004). Probably this was the original intention of the phrase, although it's probably lost its sexual charge at this point and means something more akin to "bring it on."
Maybe contributing to this tamer "bring it on" interpretation, "sock it to me" gained wider circulation on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, a popular television show that aired between 1968 and 1973. One of the show's regulars used the phrase just before being doused with a bucket of water or subjected to some other sort of indignity (of a decidedly non-sexual nature).