Aretha Franklin: This Bitter Earth (1964)

 |   |  1 min read

Aretha Franklin: This Bitter Earth (1964)

It is standard received opinion that it wasn't until the great Aretha Franklin left Columbia Records for Atlantic (and sessions in Muscle Shoals with Jerry Wexler), that her career got serious traction.

The phrase that is most heard is "Columbia didn't know what to do with her".

And while that is true -- her first songs were bluesy and then they shifted her over to their pop department -- among the dozen albums she made for them, there were bound to be some great songs.

It's interesting that Memphis-born Franklin who lived in Detroit and was well-known there didn't get signed by the local label Motown. But her style wasn't really suited to being tailored into pop.

Like Ray Charles, she brought the deep soul of the church into her music -- her father was the famous Reverend CL Franklin and a close friend of Martin Luther King, her debut album recorded at age 14 was The Gospel Soul of Aretha Franklin.

So she seemed rudderless from 1960 when she was signed to Columbia by John Hammond who considered hers to be the greatest voice since Billie Holiday (whom he'd also signed).

This song writen and produced by Clyde Otis had taken Dinah Washington to the top of the r'n'b charts in '60 so it was an obvious inclusion on Franklin's tribute to Washington, Unforgettable. Washington had died two months before the Franklin sessions with producer Robert Mersey.

Franklin may have been sometimes directionless at Columbia, but this shows what she was capable of . . .  with the right material. 

For other one-off songs with a bit of history or an interesting back-story see From the Vaults.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Jelly Roll Morton: I'm Alabama Bound (date unknown)

Jelly Roll Morton: I'm Alabama Bound (date unknown)

The origins of jazz are lost in the mists and of course few would be so bold as to say it started on any particular date. One who did however was pianist Jelly Roll Morton who claimed to have... > Read more

Maxine Brown: Funny (1961)

Maxine Brown: Funny (1961)

There's something very satisfying about don't-care-anymore songs. The world is awash with the luvvy stuff but every now and again a song comes along which says, "Yep, but I'm over you".... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

WOMAD ARTIST 2015: Richard Thompson

WOMAD ARTIST 2015: Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson starts on the back foot. The legendary British songwriter whose career dates back to the seminal folk-rock group Fairport Convention in the late Sixties and whose admirers... > Read more

THE RAINFOREST WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL (2014): A tale of two events

THE RAINFOREST WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL (2014): A tale of two events

Every music festival likes to think of itself as unique, and by definition it is. The location and cultural context – which create the ambience – as well as the different roster of... > Read more