Aretha Franklin, great American singer, songwriter and pianist, passed away on August 16th. As a tribute, New Directions In Music takes a look at her landmark 1972 recording Young, Gifted and Black and Ms. Franklin’s place in the movement for black equality in America.
Aretha Franklin had already had a long career by 1972. She had recorded a number of records for Columbia Records in styles that were largely jazz and cabaret singer settings, with only smatterings of R&B and soul, with tepid results. Her move to Atlantic Records put her into the orbit of Jerry Wexler, Arif Martin, and Tom Down and Aretha’s subsequent Atlantic releases were largely R&B and soul affairs with pop covers and the occasional look back at an earlier style
“Something cool…I’d like to order something cool” says the dame in the smoky, slightly seedy bar that is something out of a Raymond Chandler story. The kind of place where maybe there could be trouble at any moment; where maybe a couple of guys in raincoats with noses as crooked as a gerrymandered voting district come in and start asking questions. And that can’t be anything but trouble for you.
Chet Baker and Crew has the distinction of being recorded during a week of sessions that Baker recorded upon returning to the States after a disastrous year abroad. Baker had spent a great deal of time overseas in 1955, touring with a group that included bassist Jimmy Bond, drummer Peter Littman, and pianist Richard Twardzick. Twardzick never returned from that tour, a victim of a drug overdose. Bond left the group shortly thereafter, and Baker later fired Littman following a date at a U.S. military base.
Former John Coltrane producer and Impulse! Records A&R man Bob Thiele founded the Flying Dutchman record label with the express intention of producing a line of jazz-based records that would sell and be played on the radio. He also recorded a lot of favorite jazz artists, including a great many leading avant-garde players (Ornette Coleman, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp) and others (Oliver Nelson, Bud Freeman) who found themselves without recording contracts. In 1971 the label was acquired by Atco, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records.
There were charges of cultural appropriation in the air when Talking Heads fourth album, Remain In Light, was released in 1980, charges that seemed to intensify when lead singer David Byrne and producer Brian Eno released My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, a collaboration that in many ways fueled Remain in Light. Remain In Light benefited from a looser, funkier approach that was explored by the band’s married rhythm section, bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz. It was the first album released due to legal issues with sampling rights that kept Bush of Ghosts unreleased until 1981.