Happy 45th: Aretha Franklin, YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK
45 years ago today, Aretha Franklin released her twentieth studio album, which is absolutely staggering when you consider the fact that she’d only released her first studio album 11 years earlier.
Produced variously by the Atlantic trifecta of Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin, and Jerry Wexler, YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK found Franklin delivering her now-standard mixture of originals, R&B covers, and interpretations of pop tracks done in a fashion that only Aretha could pull off. On the latter front, she puts her own stamp on The Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road” and Elton John’s “Border Song (Holy Moses),” with the former earning the much-vaunted position as the album’s first single. Additionally, she turns in versions of Bacharach & David’s “April Fools,” the Delfonics’ “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time),” and Jerry Butler and Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” and Franklin also offers a handful of originals: “Day Dreaming,” “Rock Steady,” “All the King’s Horses,” and “First Snow and Kokomo.”
Typically, it’s top-tier musicians playing on the album, including Dr. John, Donny Hathaway, Billy Preston, Hubert Laws, Eric Gale, Cornell Dupree, Hugh McCracken, and Al Jackson, Jr., and with that aforementioned trio of gentlemen twiddling the knobs, you can imagine that the sound is as good as the musicianship. Thankfully, YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK got the reception from Franklin’s fans that it deserved: it hit #11 on the Billboard 200, went to #2 on the Billboard Soul Albums chart, and not only did all five of its singles – “Border Song (Holy Moses),” “Rock Steady,” “All the King’s Horses,” “Day Dreaming,” and “Oh Me Oh My (I’m a Fool for You, Baby)” – hit the top 10 of the Billboard R&B Singles chart, but all but the latter went top-40 on the Hot 100 as well.