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
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.