Study Guide

Respect Introduction

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Respect Introduction

In a Nutshell

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 their 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

ArtistFranklin, Aretha
Writer(s)Otis Redding
Producer(s)Jerry Wexler
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)
Learn to playTablature
AlbumI Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You

Music Video


Influences on Franklin, Aretha

Mahalia Jackson
Clara Ward
James Cleveland
Dinah Washington
Sam Cooke

Influenced by Franklin, Aretha

Whitney Houston
Alicia Keys
Aaron Neville
Annie Lennox
Mary J. Blige

Respect Resources


Mark Bego, Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul (2001)
While Aretha Franklin is intensely private and reluctant to discuss her private life, Bego gets as close as anyone in uncovering the inner story. Readers interested more in Aretha's music than her personality will find the book particularly useful.

Jerry Wexler and David Ritz, Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music (1994)
The Atlantic Record producer played a critical role in bringing rhythm and blues to the mass market. Fans of some of Wexler's "discoveries" like Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, as well as students of rhythm and blues and the music industry, will like this book.

Aretha Franklin and David Ritz, Aretha: From These Roots (1999)
Readers interested in really getting to the core of the great singer will be disappointed—Aretha is not the soul-exposing type. But this is the closest thing to an autobiography on the market.


I Never Loved a Man the Way that I Love You (1967)
Aretha Franklin's first album with Atlantic demonstrates the wisdom of the label change. As Rolling Stone wrote, "the place where gospel music collided with R&B and rock & roll and became soul." In addition to the hit single of the same name and "Respect," this album includes a cover of the Sam Cooke classic, "A Change is Gonna Come."

Lady Soul (1968)
Loaded with hits—"Chain of Fools," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," and "(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone"—the album was her third recorded at Atlantic.

Soul '69 (1969)
Rolling Stone called it her best album to date and the best album of the past five years. It has more of a jazz feel than her earlier albums, and the "blues" part of rhythm and blues is also more pronounced. Producer Wexler pushed the envelope on this one, replacing many of the Atlantic studio musicians with recruits from the Count Basie Orchestra and the Miles Davis Quintet.

Jump To It (1982)
After a spell in which she got lost in pop, Aretha re-found herself in this Luther Vandross produced album. The title track was her first hit in years.


Aretha, 1961
At the piano while with Columbia Records.

Artist and Producer
Aretha Franklin and Atlantic Records' Jerry Wexler.

Presidential Performance
Singing at President Obama's Inauguration in 2008.

Otis Redding
He wrote and recorded "Respect" in 1965.

Movies & TV

The Story of Gospel Music: The Power in the Voice (1998)
This documentary explores the origins, evolution, and importance of gospel music. Aretha Franklin and many of her influences (Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland) are featured.

James Brown and Friends: A Night of Super Soul (1987)
Aretha Franklin is among the friends gathering for this 1987 concert. Wilson Pickett, Joe Cocker, and Robert Palmer also perform.


Aretha on
A basic biography with some interesting details.

"Aretha Franklin Clears Up Cancer Rumors" on
In January 2011, Aretha's fans heard about a cancer scare for the 68-year-old diva. Not true, Franklin counters.

Video & Audio

The Original
"Respect" by Otis Redding.

The Cover
"Respect" by Aretha Franklin.

Up Tempo and Live
Aretha Franklin performing "Respect" live in 1967.

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