This week on My Classic Soul podcast, hosts Bethany Dawson and David Nathan, the British Ambassador of Soul deep dive into a classic Aretha Franklin album, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You.
On this second episode, they discuss their memories of the beloved Queen of Soul, from how they first chanced on her records as she became a household name to her career-spanning catalogue, including some of the most iconic songs of all time.
ON HOW THEY FIRST DISCOVERED FRANKLIN'S MUSIC:
Nathan: "I first heard her music, actually, on a beach in little Hampton in England. And how I heard it was because I was a member of a fan club of another artists and we had a fan club gathering and someone bought a battery-operated record player. They'd put on this album, which was an Aretha Franklin album called Runnin' Out of Fools from 1964. She did a lot of cover versions on there. And one of them was my favorite song at the time, which was "Walk On By", popularized, of course, by Dionne Warwick."
"My first reaction was, 'Who's that? Who is that?' Wow.' And they said mispronounced it as 'A-wrath-a Franklin.' So that was the first one I heard by her. I was a teenager at the time."
ON NATHAN'S FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH THE QUEEN OF SOUL:
Nathan: "I wrote a letter to her, care of her father, at his church because her father was a very famous minister, Reverend CEO Franklin. So I just sent this letter to Miss A Franklin, care of Reverend Franklin, new Bethel Baptist church, Detroit, Michigan. Because back in those days, I mean, where would you go get an address for a church in Detroit? It was, we're talking 1966, right."
"One day I got this letter back. And, you know, I was shocked. My dad said, 'Oh, David, letter from America.' I'm like, 'Oh, whoa, whoa.' And here was this envelope from Aretha saying, 'I've got your letters. I did know not I had any fans in England and I'm hoping to come there soon.' And so, that was that."
ON LISTENING TO FRANKLIN'S DEBUT WITH ATLANTIC RECORDS:
NATHAN: "I went to my local record shop, which was in Fulham, and I said, 'You have the single by Aretha Franklin called "I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You." And they said, 'Oh, well actually, we just got the LP.' I'm like, 'You're kidding!'"
"I ran home and I said to my mom, 'Could I get some money? I need to buy this. This LP is important.' She's like, 'Oh, it's too much money - but yeah, I understand.' And so that's literally what happened. I went back to record shop, got the LP, brought it home, and I actually remember putting the record in my record player in my bedroom."
"And the moment I heard the first note of "Respect," like...'Wow.' Of course it's the same voice, but the setting was different. Like the music was different from what she had done at Columbia. It was so, like, groove and just, she was. It was, oh wow. By the time I finished playing side one, I was just, can I use a British term? Absolutely loved it. I was gobsmacked. For our American friends, that means blown away [laughs]."
ON FRANKLIN'S GLOBAL BREAKTHROUGH AS A SOLO SINGER:
NATHAN: "She was not like a household name in the same way that some of the other artists of that time period. A lot of the Motown artists, you know, Mary Wells, the Supremes, the Four Tops, she was not in that kind of ilk of a known hitmaker. So this record, it was really, for many people, their introduction to Aretha Franklin. Really, many people had never heard of her."
"And then the fact that the songs were sounded like so much like a personal testimony. I think that the particularly for African American women at the time, she became like this symbol because she was singing in a way that - I mean, we take even a song like "Dr. Feelgood," which is, you know, there's no question that that's about sex.
DAWSON: "It's not about going to the doctor..."
NATHAN: "She was just like being really straight up about that in a way that was, had not really been done as upfront. You could say, and you were talking about the time period, 1967, a lot of people, it was kind of a time of fighting for freedom. You know, talking about civil rights, we were talking about a lot of different things that are happening all at the same time in the 60s."
Listen to the rest of the podcast here.