Top Ten Songs by Aretha Franklin

1. I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You (I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, 1967). It was this album that set Aretha Franklin down the path to fame and music glory. The entire album is heavily influenced by gospel, and filled with soul. The whole album is a masterpiece, but its title song reflects a resentful female spirit in the late 1960s when such creatures were not as common as they are now. I Never Loved A Man the Way I Love You seems like the title to what should be a beautiful love song, but it defies expectations. It’s an angry self-remonstration of a woman who knows she is being treated poorly by her lover, but feels as if she can’t get away. And Aretha doesn’t pull any punches, starting out with, “You’re a no good heart-breaker. You’re a liar, and you’re a cheat. And I don’t know why I let you do these things to me.”


2. Respect (I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, 1967).
If I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You is a song about co-dependence, Respect is a groundbreaking anthem of female independence that remains powerful, popular, and resonant to this day. Perhaps Aretha Franklin’s most famous song, Respect is a great dance tune with sassy lyrics and a spirited baseline. The sax dominated bridge is plenty of fun too.

3. Think (Aretha Now, 1968).Think took gospel and soul to a new level and established Aretha Franklin as an icon of female power. And it isn’t just the honesty of the lyrics – it’s the delivery. Aretha’s voice has so much muscle, it sometimes seems like it’ll blow the doors off the room.

4. The House that Jack Built (1968). Breaking her string of men-don’t-do-me-wrong songs, is The House that Jack Built, a raucous gospel-infused soul tune. This is not your childhood school rhyme, but a rocking apologia in which Aretha belts out, “Oh-ohh wha-a-at’s the use of crying? Because I brought it on myself there’s no denying, But it see-e-ee-ems awful funny, that I didn’t understand until I lost my upright man.”

5. Chain of Fools (Lady Soul, 1968).Chain of Fools is a song about betrayal, and Aretha’s voice is grittier and more confident than ever before. There’s an effortlessness about the soul-shouting in this song that can’t fail to impress the listener. But of course, there’s Aretha’s ever-present gospel roots in this song too, electric instruments notwithstanding. The choir breaks into a bridge of clapping and snapping behind her. And of course, there’s also more than a hint of funk to Chain of Fools.

6. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (Lady Soul, 1968). Most of Aretha’s hits are boisterous, belt-em-out tunes that move and shake you. And while the command Aretha Franklin has over her voice is evident in A Natural Woman too, this is a softer side of her sound. Singing about a happy love story for a change, Aretha’s emotions are tender and on the surface. There’s nothing that complicated about A Natural Woman, but it touches the heart and has for decades.

7. Ain’t No Way (Lady Soul, 1968). Another heart-felt ballad, Aretha keeps the intensity of her voice mostly in check during Ain’t No Way, as if she were talking just to you. Behind her, an angelic flight of notes give the song an unusual ethereal quality.

8. (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone (Lady Soul, 1968). Aretha Franklin had an astonishing number of hits in the late sixties and early seventies, and Since You’ve Been Gone was one of them. It’s a head-nodding, foot-tapping, shoulder-shaking tune with a driving beat that showcases Aretha Franklin’s show-stopping voice.

9. See Saw (Aretha Now, 1968). “Sometimes you love me like a good man oughtta, sometimes you hurt me so bad my tears run like water,” Aretha accuses in See Saw, continuing her career-long theme of a woman coming into her own and calling it like it is on the domestic front. This song chugs along like a train, with a driving base and a brass section to punctuate Aretha’s shouts. On See Saw especially, Aretha’s trademark juxtaposition of raw and controlled vocals is prominent.

10. Giving Him Something He Can Feel (Sparkle, 1976). By the mid-seventies, the Queen of Soul’s music had mellowed. But this #1 R&B hit, Giving Him Something He Can Feel, is sweet, sexy, and simple. The fact that it has recently been remade is a testament to its enduring popularity. But nobody can sing it like the Queen of Soul.

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