Sitting among hundreds gathered at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California on the night of January 13, 1972, the world renowned minister C.L. Franklin struggled to contain himself as his talented daughter Aretha delivered one of the most amazing performances of her career. Singing with deep conviction and supreme intelligence on such gospel classics as "Precious Memories", "Amazing Grace", and "Oh Mary Don't You Weep", Franklin showcased not only her artistic genius, but her deep spiritual roots. Testifying profusely to the transformative power of God, the talented songstress gloriously wed the prophetic vision of the black church, the optimistic spirit of the Civil Rights era, and a philosophical perspective born of personal struggles and triumphs. If there were any doubts regarding Franklin's religiosity and existential intactness, her powerful testimonials, soaring notes, triumphant shouts, and guttural moans erased them all in dramatic fashion.
Five months after Franklin touched the hearts of those gathered at New Temple, Atlantic Records released her live performance, appropriately titled, Amazing Grace. Critics and fans alike hailed the recording as Franklin's return to her church roots, but the singer's father railed against the idea that Aretha had abandoned her religious past. "Truth is", C.L. Franklin thundered, "Aretha hasn't ever left the church!" To a large extent, Reverend Franklin was correct, for the "church" had informed not only his daughter's musicianship but the gospel impulse that pervaded many of her biggest secular hits. Not simply an entertainer, Franklin was the caretaker of her nation's soul.
Artist: Aretha Franklin Album: Lady Soul Label: Atlantic Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/a/aretha-franklin-lady-soul.jpg US Release Date: 1968-01-22
Maybe no cultural artifact proves this fact more than her 1968 classic, Lady Soul. If her Atlantic Records debut, I Never Loved a Man , stands out for its affirmation of Franklin's talent and commercial viability, Lady Soul's cultural significance flows from its confirmation of her genius as a skilled alchemist capable of bringing fragmented worlds together. Not long after its arrival in record stores on January 22, 1968, Lady Soul dashed up the pop and soul charts, largely due to the popularity of four smash hits, "Chain of Fools", "Natural Woman", "Since You've Been Gone", and "Ain't No Way". Cultural and political differences fragmented the nation, but everyone seemed to arrive at the same conclusion when it came to Franklin's genius. Time and Ebony celebrated 1968 as the year of Aretha, probably the only thing these radically different magazines could agree upon. All at once, Negroes, blacks, white hippies, and bra-burning second wave feminists worshiped at the altar of Lady Soul.
Aretha Franklin - Chain of Fools [Lady Soul TV special from 1968]