January 1968: Aretha Franklin Releases "Lady Soul"

Aretha Franklin Live at Radio City Music Hall, 1986
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(Walter Iooss Jr./Getty Images)

Twelve albums in, and Aretha Franklin was still at the peak of her powers. Just two years into her contract with Atlantic Records, Franklin had already scored a pair of hit albums--I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You and Aretha Arrives, both released in 1967.

For her 1968 follow-up, Franklin and producer Jerry Wexler convened in the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, with an incredible cast of supporting players. Among them: Eric Clapton, Bobby Womack, Cissy Houston and the Sweet Inspirations.

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Released on January 22, 1968, Lady Soul would be an immediate hit. The album would soar up the charts, peaking at #2 on the Billboard 200 on March 15, 1968. The #1 album that week: Blooming Hits by Paul Mauriat and His Orchestra.

Lady Soul was packed with hits, starting with lead single, "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." Co-written with Carole King, Gerry Goffen and Wexler, the track would fly up the Hot 100, climbing as high as #8 on November 4, 1967.

The second single from Lady Soul: another instant classic, "Chain of Fools." Originally written by Don Covay with Otis Redding in mind, Wexler quickly snatched it up for Franklin after hearing it. The song went to #1 on the R&B chart and peaked at #2 on the Hot 100 on January 19, 1968. The #1 song: "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)" by John Fred and the Playboys.

 The third Lady Soul single was a two-for-one hit: A-side "(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone" would get to #5 on the Hot 100 in late March 1968, as well as topping the Hot Rhythm and Blues chart for three weeks.

The B-side, "Ain't No Way," would climb to #9 on the Hot Rhythm and Blues chart, and #16 on the Hot 100. 

Among the deep album cuts on Lady Soul, Franklin would take on the Young Rascals' #1 hit, "Groovin'." 

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