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Rock 100: Aretha Franklin

David Dalton, Lenny Kaye, Cooper Square Books (reissue), 1999

IN 1972 WHEN ARETHA FRANKLIN RECORDED Amazing Grace, her first gospel album in 14 years, at the New Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, it was significant on two counts: it was a homecoming and reunion with the Reverend James Cleveland, who had taught Aretha how to play the chunky chords with their weird time signature that she uses so provocatively on her songs, and it was the fusion of gospel with its commercial child, soul. As far back as the early forties black musicians like Roy Brown had been mining their gospel roots for a commercial sound that gradually became the dominant black sound. Ray Charles, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, James Brown, all in different ways, used gospel chords and harmonies to create the soul sound, substituting "baby" for "Lord," making the pentecostal "put your hands together" into the soul clap; but Aretha was of the church, and the first to be "sanctioned" as the messenger of the spirit, bringing the word to the people.

Total word count of piece: 1220

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