Aretha Franklin: The Powerful Message Behind Her Equality Anthem “Respect”

If there’s one thing that Aretha Franklin will always be remembered for, it’s how to spell out respect.

When the then-24-year-old released her rendition of “Respect” in April 1967, audiences immediately grasped onto the confidence and independent spirit that the song’s empowering sass elicited. Within weeks, it flew to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, where it reigned for 12 weeks, but more importantly, it quickly became a rallying cry that marginalized groups — especially the civil rights and women’s rights movements — adopted as an anthem since it preached the essential message that everyone’s voices deserved to be heard.

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But the song didn’t start out that way. In fact, Franklin had nothing to do with the original 1965 release, which, ironically, is a relic of a misogynistic time.

Despite the tone of the first rendition, Franklin took the song and flipped it on its head, turning it into one of the most powerful songs of a generation.

The original song had ‘masculine appeal’

Before his song “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” which hit No. 1 posthumously in 1968, Otis Redding had released “Respect” in 1965.

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