DAVID NATHAN'S DIARY - September 2, 2021: ARETHA - A Closer Look (Pt 2): Until You Come Back To Me (Demo)

Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder
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It’s spring 1973 and Aretha Franklin is recording tracks for a new Atlantic album. By April 10, she’s already completed 10 songs, 3 of which will remain unissued until 2007 when they are included on a Rhino compilation, “Rare & Unreleased Recordings From The Golden Reign Of The Queen Of Soul,” all but one of which are the fruits of my tape research in 2002. 

In the months between April 10 and August 13 – when she completes two more tracks for what will be her 10th studio album for Atlantic – Aretha and her advisors and lawyers are in negotiation with the label for her contract with the company that has truly supported her rise to global fame.  She talks with other labels, music industry scuttlebutt reports including CBS Records (where she meets with then-label head, one Clive Davis), Buddah Records and RCA.

Nothing is finalized in those negotiations by Friday, September 7, 1973 when Aretha steps into a New York City studio with producer Jerry Wexler, arranger/conductor Arif Mardin and a cast of musicians and background singers that are the ‘A’-plus cream of the crop including labelmate Donny Hathaway…

Aretha, in a memorable December transatlantic interview with this writer (then based in London) while she’s performing at The Apollo Theater in Harlem, reveals that she’s “almost re-signed” to Atlantic and it hasn’t hurt the talks she’s having with the company that her September recording session a few months earlier has resulted in her biggest R&B/pop hits in almost eighteen months…

“Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do),” written by one, Stevie Wonder along with Morris Broadnax and Clarence Paul, has been sitting in the Motown vaults since 1967, a completed recording, produced by Paul.

Aretha, December, 1973: "Stevie and I are old friends, you know. He often drops material by at the studios for me – and this particular song was written with another old friend, Morris Broadnax [and Clarence Pau]. I chose this one…” Aretha adds that confirmed that she'll definitely be doing some more of Stevie's material in future…

Flashback to September 7: producer Wexler says a few words before Aretha begins what will be the unforgettable piano part on the final recording. In her distinctive speaking voice, she does a finger-snappin’ count-off as renowned drummer Bernard Purdie (who has played on more than a few Aretha recordings!) hits the sticks…

By the end of the close-to-four-minutes demo of Aretha’s amazing version of Stevie’s ‘hidden gem’ during which other musicians have joined in as Aretha runs down a rough vocal, Wexler is happy.  “Let’s make a track now…”

“Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” becomes Aretha’s 14th certified gold single in the US, her sixth UK Top 40 hit and one of the many timeless classics in an unparalleled legacy of music…

You can hear Aretha's original demo of the song on the ARETHA' Box Set


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(Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
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