Aretha Franklin’s “Sparkle.”

Released: May 27, 1976

Genre: R&B • Soul

Label: Atlantic

Producer: Curtis Mayfield

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Aretha Franklin was truly the Queen of Soul, & that was evident in her work. Aretha became a force during her years with Atlantic, giving us hit after hit while working with her frequent producer, Jerry Wexler.

When the iconic and legendary musician Curtis Mayfield was tapped for doing the soundtrack to the 1976 cult classic Sparkle, he was already behind the soundtracks for some of the biggest Black films of the 70s. To get a sense of what the soundtrack is all about, you have to understand the synopsis of the film.

Sparkle is a rags to riches story that is based on three sisters who start a girl group that ends up breaking apart due to issues each sister faces individually, and one sister (ironically named Sparkle) is the one who has a successful solo career. The film has themes of Black music having a huge impact on pop culture at the time, gender & sexuality, black power/blaxploitation & tragedy (dope, melancholia & the wrong man).

Although it was evident that the stars in the film (Irene Cara, Lonette McKee & Dwan Smith) were capable of executing the soundtrack as they did in the film, but Curtis wanted a seasoned entertainer to sing the soundtrack. There are reports that Carolyn Franklin (Aretha’s baby sister) was considered for the album, but Aretha heard the album and jumped at the opportunity and Curtis was sold.

Sparkle was released May 27, 1976 on Aretha’s long time label Atlantic Records. The album returned Aretha back to Gold status after a slump period with her last two albums. The album/soundtrack is truly a masterpiece and one of the best soundtracks for a Black film from the mid 70s.

Ladies & Gentlemen, I present to you: Aretha Franklin’s Sparkle.

Sparkle


Written by Curtis Mayfield

The album begins with the title track & you know it’s an Aretha track right away. The one thing that mesmerizes me is the production. The beautiful thing about Aretha & Curtis is they’re both gifted musicians from the Midwest (Aretha is from Detroit & Curtis is from Chicago) & they GET IT.

From their involvement in the Civil Rights Movement to their musical talents, them collaborating is such a beautiful thing and Sparkle is a great introduction to that.

From Aretha’s soothing yet powerful vocals to the Curtis amazing production that is very reminiscent to the Philly soul sound, I love the direction that the album was going.

Something He Can Feel


Written by Curtis Mayfield

So much joy for us it seems

So much hope for material things

Are they only in my dreams?

Well. So I write this song for you, to prove that real things do come true.

-Aretha Franklin, 1976.

Something He Can Feel is the highlight of the album and a true gem. This song was sung by the ladies in the film and while it is beautiful..it’s something about Aretha’s version that is top tier. A song about giving

With assistance from the Kitty Haywood Singers, Aretha felt this record in her spirit and soul about her man!! The song has become a staple on quiet storm stations ever since and gave Aretha another number one record on the Billboard R&B charts, and her only top 40 pop hit in the mid 70s.

The song was covered by En Vogue for their Funky Divas album. Titled Giving Him Something He Can Feel, the song was also a number one hit for the group.

Hooked On Your Love


Written by Curtis Mayfield

Hooked On Your Love is such a mesmerizing record. From a lyrical perspective, the song is about how the love of her partner has her addicted 100%. The song has been covered by En Vogue & Carmen Ejojo, Jordin Sparks & Tika Sumpter for the Sparkle remake.

Look into Your Heart


Written by Curtis Mayfield

Look into Your Heart is a song!!! From a lyrical perspective, the song is about love. The lyrics speak to how love isn’t perfect or easy, but it truly conquers all when you’re optimistic about being united. The song has been covered by Aretha’s honorary niece Whitney Houston, and Jordin Sparks (whom played Sparkle in the remake of the film..which Whitney was a producer of).

I Get High


Written by Curtis Mayfield

I Get High is one of the songs on the soundtrack that correlates to one of the characters, named Sister. In the film, Sister is the promising lead singer of the group that was formed with her sisters, Sparkle & Dolores. Unfortunately, she falls down the wrong path with the wrong man, and eventually develops a drug addiction. Aretha sings this song with so much grit, pain & vocals! You feel every lyric. The song was sampled by Talib Kweli.

Jump


Written by Curtis Mayfield

Jump is a bop, okay!!! It’s a feel good uptempo number that moved party goers on the dance floor. The song became a top 20 hit on the R&B charts along with Hooked on Your Love (as a B-side).

Loving You Baby


Written by Curtis Mayfield

Loving You Baby is definitely an amazing record and reminds me so much of Sparkle & Stix from the movie. The singer adores her man, and will love him side by side..no matter what obstacles they face.

Rock with Me


Written by Curtis Mayfield

One of the best highlights of the record, Rock with Me is a gem out of Aretha’s catalog period. It is truly a masterpiece..and the perfect way to close out the album.

Sparkle is truly one of the best soundtracks ever. 45 years later, the album still sounds like perfection. Aretha & Curtis were truly geniuses in their own right, but this soundtrack proved that magic can always happen. -MW.

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