Otis Redding issued the single "Respect" in 1965. But it wasn't until Aretha Franklin made the song her own two years later that it received the acclaim it so richly deserved. Franklin signed to Atlantic Records in 1966 after having already established herself as a rising talent in the soul genre by signing with Columbia Records when she was only 18 years old.
There, she cut "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)" and her cover of Otis Redding's "Respect," the two songs that would make her a household name (via "Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul"). Released at a period when African Americans and women were protesting for their rights, "Respect" became the anthem for both movements and for equality in general (via Binghamton University) (via City Girl Network).
Franklin also changed the song's interpretation from one in which a man wanted respect from his girlfriend to one in which the opposite was true (via Vox), demonstrating her strength and influence as a female musician in a field dominated by men. Franklin went on to have a historic career, with 10 R&B albums topping the charts (via The Guardian). Additionally, she was the first performer to win the Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Franklin was exceptional, and she helped other women as well.
Aretha Franklin didn't initially record her most well-known song for that reason, despite the fact that it served as an anthem for equality in the 1960s. Franklin just stressed the significance of respect for everyone when questioned by Vogue whether the songs "Respect" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman") were influenced by feminism or civil rights. It's important to anyone, not just to myself, the Civil Rights movement, or women, she remarked.
Franklin went on to say "Even babies and tiny children want to be treated with respect. We should respect one another because we are all people." Franklin didn't mind that "Respect" developed a life of its own, even though she didn't believe it was really responsible for igniting the racial and gender equality movements. Franklin stated in her 1999 autobiography, "Aretha: From These Roots," "I don't make it a practise to inject my politics into my music or social commentary."
The legendary performer did, however, agree that "Respect" "shows me something" in that it "naturally became a battle cry and anthem for a nation" (via The Fader).
Beyond the songs "Respect" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Womanhistorical "'s significance, Aretha Franklin's popularity paved the door for women in music to be noticed and celebrated in their own right. Franklin made history by becoming the first female inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. (via CNN).
Following in her footsteps were artists like Debbie Harry, Joan Jett, Chrissie Hynde, Mary J. Blige, Carole King, Lady Gaga, Stevie Nicks, and Beyoncé (via the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), as well as Dolly Parton and Pat Benatar who will be inducted in November 2022, according to NBC News. Franklin was described by the museum as "an artist of passion, sophistication, and command" when she passed away in 2018.
Although Franklin won't see their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, she was upbeat about the future of female musicians. A year before her passing, she told TIME magazine, "I don't think women need to do anything other than what they're doing right now, which is moving forward. "advancing to the front. moving into the boardrooms. entering the territory that has been occupied by men. We'll be there."