Klinger: I can only imagine what a mind-messer Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” must have been when it first hit the airwaves back in 1967. Even if you had heard Otis Redding’s version a couple years before, this rendition still must have sounded like it came from another planet. That punch-in-the-face intro, the brassy first blast of vocals, those backing vocals that zig every time you think they’re going to zag—it must have been one of the most thrilling experiences pop music had offered up in quite some time.
A shame, then, that it’s been worn down to such a nub in the intervening years. Every time I hear this song I end up thinking of Murphy Brown for some reason, and I’m not even entirely sure why. Did Candace Bergen sing it a lot on the show, Mendelsohn? I don’t remember, but here we are. Anyway, the song has become such a cliché, such a lazy Hollywood way of expressing empowerment, that it’s practically lost all meaning. If you really concentrate, though, you can still hear that first spark that made “Respect” so great. And luckily, the album it came from, Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, is full of plenty more moments that haven’t been chewed into mush by the Big Chill generation. I’ll let you point out a few now.