As I listen to each album every day, there are certain practices I like to deploy. I try listening in the car if I have a decent drive to make, or when I’m out for a walk or run. Also, I never look at the song titles ahead of time to know what I’m getting. When it is an album like “Sgt. Pepper” that I have listened to hundreds of times, there is a comfort and familiarity revisiting an old friend. However, the real joy has come when I put on album and either hear an unexpected surprise and/or a true classic amidst a sea of unfamiliar songs. Today, I had all of the above when I listened to “Lady Soul” by Aretha Franklin. This album is rated #75 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and it is also #7 on the digitaldreamdoor.com list of Top 10 Soul Albums of All Time.
As I began my morning run with the rising sun along the Atlantic shore, I was already feeling pretty good about the day, and the album quickly kicked into high gear with “Chain of Fools”. However, as the sun was rising above the horizon with infinite beauty, she went into an amazing version of “People Get Ready”. I wasn’t ready for that one, and it hit me hard. Nobody will ever confuse me with a religious or perhaps even a spiritual person, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder when all of those forces come together at once, listening to Aretha take this song to church. It is one of the moments from this long road I will never forget.
The album then dropped a really funky bass groove on “Niki Hoeky”, which I just loved, particularly with its Louisiana-themed backdrop. And just to bring it home like only Aretha can, the very next song was “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, originally written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin. If you ever want to be deeply moved, watch the video of Aretha performing this song at the Kennedy Honors as Carole King was being recognized. An incredible scene full of emotion, and my second favorite Kennedy Center Honors moment of all-time.
All of the emotion of Aretha’s recent passing, her remarkable impact on the world we live in, and the magnitude of this song all combined for yet another moment where I almost had to stop running. Don’t ever underestimate how powerful the art of music is and can be.
Throw in a version of “Groovin’”, and an otherwise excellent collection of songs featuring Aretha Franklin at her very best, and you just can’t go wrong. If this album isn’t on your playlist, you have your own homework to do.