DAVID NATHAN'S DIARY - September 16, 2021: ARETHA - A Closer Look (Pt 4): You’re All I Need To Get By

Aretha Franklin in 1971
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Monique JACOT/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

In the vast session logs of Atlantic Records which go back to the early 1940’s, the first entry for Aretha Franklin’s recording of “You’re All I Need To Get By,” the Ashford & Simpson-penned 1968 hit by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell occurs on November 2, 1970 as the third and final song on an all-star session featuring Aretha on piano, Donny Hathaway on organ, Hugh McCracken on guitar, Eric Gale on electric bass, Memphis drummer Al Jackson on drums and The Sweet Inspirations providing vocal support, with Arif Mardin conducting, Tom Dowd engineering and Jerry Wexler in the producer’s chair. 

The New York City session includes a makeover of the Jerry Butler-later-Dusty Springfield hit, “A Brand New Me” and British pop/soul star Lulu’s “Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby).”  Both of those tracks make it to Aretha’s 1972 gold LP “Young, Gifted & Black.”  For whatever reason, the take on “You’re All I Need To Get By” is listed as ‘unissued.’

Being a vault archaeologist and Aretha archivist provides me with many wonderful and treasured ‘finds’ and among them, a box in the vast Burbank tape library unearths (in 2005) a full reel with Aretha’s name on it and multiple takes of “You’re All I Need” (as its listed) recorded a few days before that November 1970 session on the 29th October.  There are ‘false’ starts, Aretha’s piano intro, a few comments between Aretha and Jerry Wexler and between her and The Sweet Inspirations as she’s working out her arrangement of the song.  There are just a couple of almost completed takes but nothing that makes the final cut. 

Out of what there is to choose from the plethora among what seem to be twenty-two attempts on the song is take 20, a glorious just over-four-minutes-plus workout prominently displaying Aretha’s keyboard virtuosity which also includes the memorable Franklin vocal lines created for the song, ‘As long as I got you then baby you know that you got me, ohh!  Cause we got our love and some R-E-S-P-E-C-T!’

The 29th October workouts were clearly preparation for the 2nd November session but seemingly nothing gelled; on January 24th, 1971 there is another entry in the Atlantic logs with a question mark next to it, suggesting the recording date hasn’t been verified. However, the session info has Aretha on vocals and piano, ‘unidentified’ strings and Arif Mardin conducting which suggests that this is a ‘sweetening’ session with Aretha adding a new vocal and piano part.  Two versions are recorded, a never-found ‘new long version’ and what would end up being the final single (marked as  ‘edited version’), released at the end of February 1971, reaching #3 on the US R&B charts and #19 on the US pop listings.

Even though it seems to have taken a lot of work for all concerned, the 45 did marginally well by Aretha’s standards of non-stop charted hits.  Issued as the follow up to the November 1970 version of Elton John’s “Border Song (Holy Moses)” which Aretha recorded in August of that year, “You’re All I Need To Get By” ultimately proved to be a stop-gap: in the wake of her tremendous televised performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at the 13th Annual Grammy Awards on March 16, 1971, Atlantic wisely released Aretha’s studio recording of the Simon & Garfunkel song which she had cut in August 1970.

Included on an October 1971 “Greatest Hits” LP,  the musical transformation that 'The Queen Of Soul' brings to the Ashford & Simpson-penned song provides a stellar example of Aretha’s inventive creativity and artistry in full effect, all the way from the work tape included on the “Aretha” 2021 box set to a remarkable recording…

ARETHA PERFORMING "YOU'RE ALL I NEED TO GET BY" AT THE FILLMORE WEST, MARCH 1971

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