"Higher Culture" Aside: There's a Reason People Still Show Aretha 'Respect'

(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)

Another minute, musical aside from the “Higher Culture” realms

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin left us three years ago, on August 16, 2018, at age 76.


Fitting, then, that the producers of the new feature film about her life, “Respect,” chose to release it on that day this year. Later on this week, I’ll be reviewing the Aretha bio pic. (I promise to give a heads up, but you’ll be able to find it in the RedState VIP area, as a proper “Higher Culture” column.)

But, even before I thought about watching the movie, somehow her music started creeping into my weekly soundtrack over the past month. That’s just what powerful artists and their work do.

If you’ve followed my doings in “Higher Culture,” you know that one of the ways I find “new” music is by bopping around on YouTube. That’s how I happened to find this first, amazing track.

It’s just such a beautiful and deceptively powerful version of “I Say A Little Prayer” from an obvious master, who made the skill of weaving Soul and R&B together look easy. What I really love about it is its imperfections — inevitable in any live performance (this one, from the “This Is Tom Jones” TV show in 1970).


Then two years later, in 1972, Aretha covered “Border Song” (a Bernie Taupin/Elton John creation, which was a single for Elton in ’70). And she totally made it her own, of course, in a soaring, Gospel rendition that clocks in at just a little over 3 minutes.




You might be as moved as I was, while watching this duet between Elton and the Queen of Soul, at a tribute show honoring Aretha and her career in 1993.



This next song might surprise you, but stick with me. You’ve heard the phrase, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Well, just like Aretha herself covered Elton, the surest sign that her influence remains as strong as ever is that someone just covered what’s likely her signature song.

That’s right. “Respect.” And this new version, released in 2020 by dance outfit One For The People, is very much a throwback to early house and techno music — with a nod to the magical history of dance tracks on the island of Ibiza. Take a listen.

Long live the Queen!


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