Aretha Franklin’s 1967 classic “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” can now be heard sung by chirpy blondes in shampoo commercials. And the rousing “Think,” released a year later, seems to have regrettably become a universal chick-flick anthem.
What’s desperately needed is a way to separate the über-talented Franklin from the cheesy ways her music has sometimes been used. We suggest a temporary ban on her most familiar numbers. Hide your copy of one of her many hits collections and look into some of these alternatives.
IF YOU LOVE 1967’s rapturous “Natural Woman,” try 1963’s “I Wonder (Where Are you Tonight).” Recorded before she made her breakthrough hits, “Where” represents Franklin at her most touchingly vulnerable. It’s not the work of someone who has been coronated as the best vocalist in her field, but rather a yearning call made by a talented young woman with a pretty voice and a broken heart.
IF YOU LOVE 1967’s blazing “Respect,” try 1974’s “Let Me In Your Life.” It’s no fiery call for equality,” but it’s fueled by the same charge of gospel electricity. On “Life,” penned by Bill Withers, Franklin demands to become some guy’s new girlfriend. And, listening to it, you can’t imagine that he’d have the force to stop her.
IF YOU LOVE 1972’s breezy “Day Dreaming,” try 1989’s “He’s the Boy.” From the otherwise awful album “Through the Storm,” which includes a slew of insipid duets with James Brown, Elton John and Whitney Houston, “Storm” finds Franklin in spare, stripped down mode, joyfully playing piano like she’s back in her father’s church, singing about the man of her dreams.
IF YOU LOVE 1972’s desperate “Oh Me Oh My (I’m a Fool for You Baby),” try 1996’s “In the Morning.” Though taken from the wonderful “A Rose Is Still A Rose,” which teamed Franklin with hip-hoppers Lauryn Hill, P. Diddy Combs and Jermaine Dupri, “Morning” features the queen pondering that age-old question: “Will you still love me tomorrow?”
IF YOU LOVE the 1993 club anthem “(Pride) A Deeper Love,” try 1979’s “Only Star.” This cut opens side two (yes, it’s only on vinyl) of Franklin’s delightfully campy “La Diva” album, which attempted to turn the queen of soul into a dancing queen by pairing her with producer Van McCoy of “The Hustle” fame. “Star” is a fun, if corny, romp about how the lights, glamour and flash of the disco dance floor can make almost anyone feel like an instant celebrity.