10/6/15 – Aretha Franklin – I Say A Little Prayer – 1970

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Aretha Franklin 1970There seems to be two types of people in this world…Ha Ha!! That’s the funniest thing I ever wrote! But, to follow up on this thought, there’s those that like skill, technique, faultless natural ability, professionalism, virtuosity, tradition and there’s those that like, unpredictability, experimentation, imagination, originality, passion and to make the thought sound even more ridiculous, these attributes are not mutually exclusive. Then there’s those that want to dance, those that want to know the words, those that like a strong melody…wait a minute that’s more than two types of people?

But the point is, it’s rather difficult to have all these things in one person at the same time. Tradition and experimentaion might be two uneasy bedfellows, although in Jazz music that’s not such a difficult scenario – experimentation based on tradition wasn’t too far fetched for visionaries like Thelonius Monk or Anthony Braxton. You’d think that in Soul it would be much harder to find experimentation, but Norman Whitfield put an end to that with his Psychedelic Soul productions breaking all the rules in the late sixties. Hm but what about Country music, it’s fundamentally traditional. Are there any surreal country bands?  Well if you haven’t heard Hank Williams lll sing Torn Between Suicide And Breakfast, you’d probably think not – give it a spin, let me know.

It’s much simpler to pervert Easy Listening, William Shatner singing Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds comes to mind. Tony Bennett’s ill advised 1970 album, Tony Bennett Sings The Hits Of Today showed that the cabaret, supper club crooners considered the idea of breaking out of the mould, although nobody has ever used the words ” I Like it” in relation to this record. Bennett certainly rang William Shatner and asked him how he thought he should approach Eleanor Rigby.

And then there’s the sublime sensation that is Aretha Franklin, soulful, natural, passionate, unerring technique, tone, phrasing, swing, timing, performance, delivery, she really has everything. But just imagine if she’d got to make an experimental or Psychedelic album with strange sounds, odd arrangements, daft words, challenging production, unheard chord progressions, I want to hear her jamming more in weird land. Even Ella Fitzgerald jammed (Skat singing) but I feel like Aretha could have taken it to another place, another planet. That’s what I want, all that skill, all that wonderful natural ability, all that effortless musicality, shaken up and tossed into uncertainty. Well I guess we have Scott Walker – but the jury is certainly out as to whether this collision of magical, commanding voice and hitting a piece of meat hanging from a hook can be viewed as successful.

Today at Pet Sounds, Juhani, played Scritti Politti, “Each Night I go to sleep I Pray like Aretha Franklin”. And here she is on The Cliff Richard show in 1970, absolutely owning I Say A Little Prayer with her fine backing singers The Sweet Inspirations (Estelle, Myrna, and Sylvia). But like you don’t want to hear anybody else but Tony Bennet sing, I Left My Heart In San Francisco or Percy Sledge sing, When A Man Loves A Woman, you also might not want anyone but Dionne Warwick to sing her hit version of I Say A Little Prayer that reached No.4 in the US in 1967. But then again Dusty Springfield also made the song come alive and Aretha being such a talent couldn’t fail either. The song itself is of course written by Bacharach/David and that means two things (Ha Ha) it’s so good you can’t mess it up or it’s so good that expectations are high for any interpretation, it demands respect and we know Aretha has that. What you might not know is that Hal David was trying to write a lyric “to convey concern” from a woman to her man in Viet Nam – and that makes the song even more powerfl and meaningful than it already was.

So in conclusion, let’s imagine that Nick Cave sang in tune and Aretha Franklin made weird records or maybe best just leave it as it is and enjoy genius in whatever way it manifests itself. BUT, listen to Aretha Franklin – Rare & Unreleased Recordings From The Golden Reign Of The Queen Of Soul – Rock Steady – Alternate Mix – Young, Gifted And Black Outtake – the last few seconds in a parallel universe might have led Aretha down a rabbit hole from where she might not have ever returned!

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little prayer for you
Oh while combing my hair now
And wondering what dress to wear now
I say a little prayer for you

Forever forever you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever and forever we never will part
Oh how I’ll love you
Together together that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

I run for the bus dear
While riding I think of us dear
I say a little prayer for you
At work I just take time
And all thru my coffee break time
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever and ever we never will part
Oh how I’ll love you
Together together that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only be heartbreak for me

I say a little prayer for you
I say a little prayer for you

Forever forever you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever and forever we never will part
Oh how I’ll love you
Together together that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only be heartbreak for me

My darling believe me
For me there is no one but you
Please love me too
I’m in love with you
Answer my prayer
Say you love me too

Why don’t you answer my prayer? yeah
You know every day
I say a little prayer
I said I say I say a little prayer
Why don’t you answer my prayer?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aretha_Franklin

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Say_a_Little_Prayer

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hal_David

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burt_Bacharach

 

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