On June 1, 1972, Atlantic Records released what at the time would have been considered an ambitious live double album. “Amazing Grace” – originally recorded six months earlier over two nights (January 13 & 14) – would become ultimately an unmatched milestone in the iconic career of ‘Queen Of Soul’ Aretha Franklin, selling over two million copies, and giving Aretha her eighth Grammy Award in a remarkable span of five years,

“Young, Gifted & Black,” Aretha’s tenth Atlantic LP, released in February 1972, achieved gold status as had four of her previous albums for the label.  Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler (who had signed Aretha to the label in November 1966) didn’t take any convincing when it came to Aretha’s wish to cut a live album with Reverend James Cleveland (who had played a key role as a mentor and teacher in developing her musical skills during Aretha’s formative years), something she had expressed to Cleveland on frequent occasions.

Launched in 1966, the groundbreaking SOUL Newspaper covered the sessions for “Amazing Grace” and  its’ February 28th 1972 issue contained a report by SOUL Publisher Regina Jones and Managing Editor Judy Spiegelman on the proceedings, with the title “After Ten Years, Aretha Brings It Back Home.”

With kind courtesy of pioneer Regina Jones and SOUL Publications LLC, we’re thrilled to bring some extracts from the article by Matthew Jones, adapted from Judy Spiegelman’s original article.
All photos, courtesy SOUL Publications Archives

“It was Wednesday evening, and the last rehearsal session before the recording sessions would begin at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church on Broadway in the heart of Los Angeles and ready to let loose.

Aretha wandered around the room shyly, smiling here, chatting there, politely avoiding any deep conversations. She sat for a while with an acquaintance discussing children and offering coffee, and then returned to the microphone. The choir was seated and the band took to their instruments Chuck Rainey on bass, Bernard Purdie on drums, Cornell Dupree on guitar, Dick Richards on congas. Reverend Cleveland was at the piano, eighteen year old Kenneth Lupper rotated with Dave Crawford on organ with choir director/arranger Alexander Hamilton at the helm.

Thursday evening found many people at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church surprised. The converted movie theater was wired for sound, lights, and camera as the entire session was filmed by Sydney Pollack hired by Warner Brothers Studio. Jerry Wexler greeted guests and ticket-holders at the door. Jerry Wexler greeted guests and ticket-holders at the door. Amongst the crowd were Candice Bergan, Altovise Davis (Spouse of Sammy Davis Jr.) and Mira Walters…

The choir marched down the aisle and then Aretha entered. The song “Amazing Grace” highlighted the first recording session, seconded by “You’ve Got A Friend,” and then, too soon, it was over until Friday night.  Aretha wore African-styled gowns both nights, her hair in the neat and most becoming natural she has been wearing lately. The second night, Aretha’s audience included her father, Reverend C.L. Franklin, who flew out after hearing about what Thursday night was like….

The musical and spiritual experience would conclude. Filming would end. The audience would leave gobsmacked….”

©2022 Regina Jones, SOUL Publications LLC, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Click here for Matthew’s entire blog, “Aretha’s Franklin’s Amazing Grace: 50th Anniversary” 

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