If Aretha Franklin had a moment of coronation as the Queen of Soul, it might have been March 10, 1967 - the day her first album for Atlantic Records arrived in stores.
I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You was hardly Aretha's first - she'd recorded nearly a dozen albums for Columbia throughout the '60s - but where those albums failed to launch her into the stratosphere, the change of scenery on this one succeeded. Aretha decamped from New York City to FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record with the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, whose members recording hits for Arthur Alexander and James & Bobby Purify.
The Muscle Shoals sessions only yielded one usable track, however: the album's eventual title song. Any further progress was thwarted by an argument between Aretha's husband Ted White and studio owner Rick Hall. Franklin returned home to New York and requested Jerry Wexler bring the rhythm section to her; with major markets having played acetates of "I Never Loved a Man" and discovered its hit potential, Wexler quickly agreed.
The whirlwind sessions procured some of Aretha's most beloved work: "Do Right Woman - Do Right Man," "Dr. Feelgood," and a pair of Sam Cooke tracks, "A Change is Gonna Come" and "Good Times." But the strongest of all was Otis Redding's "Respect," transformed from a soul rave-up to an anthem of Black woman expression that impacted radio and sales like a neutron bomb.
Within months, "I Never Loved a Man" and "Respect" gave Aretha her first ever Top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100; "Respect" climbed to No. 1 on that chart for two weeks in June 1967, and the album ascended to No. 2 in its eighth week on the chart. For the Queen of Soul, it was of course just the beginning - but what a start.