by Randal Hill
One day in 1965, when Otis Redding returned from a particularly grueling tour, he complained of exhaustion to his pal, drummer Al Jackson. In Behind the Hits, Jackson recalled, “I said to Otis, ‘All you can look for is a little respect when you come home.’ He wrote the tune from our conversation. We laughed about it quite a few times. In fact, Otis laughed about it all the way to the bank.”
Redding created Respect in a single day. He had promised the song to “Speedoo” Sims, his road manager and leader of a soul group called the Singing Demons. When the band couldn’t fully capture the gritty “feel” that Redding had in mind, Redding decided to record the song himself. It proved to be a good career move: his Respect reached No. 3 on the 1965 Billboard R & B charts and even made Billboard’s Top Forty pop (white) singles’ list.
Two years later, Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler felt that a redone Respect by the label’s rising star, gospel-belter Aretha Franklin, had the potential to break big with white
audiences as well as black. Franklin
enthusiastically agreed and cut her
version on Valentine’s Day of 1967.
Just before the tape rolled, she and her
sisters Erma and Carolyn made a few
changes, adding the “Sock it to me”
line—a future catch phrase on TV’s
legendary Laugh-In show – and spelling
Franklin had come to Atlantic after
a six-year stint at Columbia Records.
She was only 18, a high-school dropout
with two out-of wedlock sons, when
she signed with Columbia in 1960. She saw only middling success there with main stream pop before the switch to Atlantic put her on the right (commercial) track.
Some major differences are readily apparent in the two versions of Respect. Redding’s song is a plea from a man almost begging for appreciation when he comes home. But Franklin, banging out gospel chords on a piano, makes her Respect a ramped-up declaration from a woman both steel strong and supremely confident. She demands the proper respect that she feels is her due as a partner, a friend, a woman.
Franklin’s disc reached No. 1 on both the R & B and pop charts, and her appeal for dignity became a landmark for both the Women’s Rights and Civil Rights movements. Respect
also fetched two Grammy Awards. The ultimate respect Franklin earned? Two decades later, the Queen of Soul deservedly became the first woman to be inducted into the prestigious Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Aretha Franklin • May 1967 Respect Favorite musical memories from years gone by
Randal C. Hill, a former disc jockey, English teacher, record collector and author,
confesses to being hopelessly stuck in the past when it comes to music appreciation.
He lives on the Oregon coast and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.