In loving memory of Tracy Walker…
Released: June 1, 1972
Recorded: January 13-14, 1972
Producer: Aretha Franklin • Jerry Wexler • Arif Mardin
By 1972, Aretha Franklin was one of the leading ladies in popular music. Dubbed the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha became one of the biggest R&B star when she signed to Atlantic Records in the late 60s. Working with Jerry Wexler turned her into an overnight sensation, giving us hit after hit. From Respect, Think, Chain of Fools, I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) to I Say a Little Prayer, Aretha became a legendary songstress and rightfully so.
With 18 albums and over 11 consecutive number one pop & R&B hits, Aretha really was the one and never there two!
After the release of her iconic Young, Gifted and Black album, the singer released a double LP, titled Amazing Grace. Amazing Grace was a gospel album that was, and still is an amazing religious experience. Aretha wanted to do something different for her new album, and wanted to go back to her Gospel roots.
Let me give some Aretha history: Aretha grew up in the church. Aretha’s father C.L Franklin was a Minister and Civil RIghts Activist, and was known as the “Million-Dollar Voice.” Aretha would go on tour with her father, who knew a lot of prominent figures in Black History such as Martin Luther King Jr, Mahalia Jackson, Dinah Washington, Clara Ward, Sam Cooke & James Cleveland, who Aretha collaborated with on the Amazing Grace project.
Amazing Grace is everything you’d expect from an Aretha album, but Gospel. Collaborating with longtime friend James Cleveland & his Southern California Community Choir, Amazing Grace is a Gospel moment that can never be forgotten. Like it’s truly mind blowing.
I think I speak for all fans when I say this album was Aretha at her best vocally. She didn’t hold back whatsoever, and it shows! From traditional Gospel songs to her take on pop & soul songs being flipped into Gospel recordings, Aretha’s artistry on this album proves that she was not only the greatest singer of all time, but the Queen of Soul & Gospel. Recorded over the course of two days in January of 1972, the Amazing Grace album was released on June 1, 1972 as a double LP.
Peaking at number two on the Billboard Top R&B charts and number seven on the Billboard 200 charts respectively, Amazing Grace was a critical and commercial success for Aretha and is still her best selling album out of her 50+ year career. While accomplishing accolades such as the album being the highest-selling live gospel music album of all time, the album has sold over two million copies, certifying in the double platinum by the RIAA. Aretha won the 1973 Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance.
Ladies & Gentlemen, I present to you Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace.
Mary, Don’t You Weep
Written by Spiritual
The album opens up with the classic spiritual Mary, Don’t You Weep. Originating from time of the Civil War, the song tells the Biblical story of Mary of Bethany pleading with Jesus to raise her brother Lazarus from the dead. Aretha’s version of this song is my favorite because of course she takes it on home! She makes you feel every lyric. Every high note, you name it.
Medley: Precious Lord, Take My Hand / You’ve Got a Friend
Written by Thomas A. Dorsey ・Frank Frazier ・Carole King
Aretha knew how to blend songs together so beautifully, and she did just that with this song. A medley of the gospel song Precious Lord, Take My Hand, & Carole King’s You’ve Got A Friend is one of the album’s gems through and through!
Written by W. Herbert Brewster ・Adeline M. Brunner
Old Landmark is a traditional gospel song that Aretha tore up Chile!
Give Yourself to Jesus
Written by Robert Fryson
Give Yourself to Jesus is one of my favorites on the album! & Aretha’s version is so timeless, that it brings me to tears.
How I Got Over
Written by Clara Ward
Aretha paid homage to one of her idols with this amazing cover of How I Got Over. Originally sung by the late & great Clara Ward, How I Got Over is a highlight of this album for me.
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Written by Joseph M. Scriven ・Charles Crozat Converse
Aretha transformed the classic Christian hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus into a marvelous masterpiece! Written by Charles C. Converse & Joseph M. Scriven, Aretha’s version is everything I remember growing up in the church my grandfather was a pastor at. Vocals, the choir, everything! But we expect nothing but greatness from the Queen.
Written by John Newton
I don’t even think I have any words that can explain how Aretha tore up the classic Christian hymn Amazing Grace with no hesitation. That’s it. That’s the statement.
Precious Memories featuring James Cleveland
Written by J.B.F. Wright
Precious Memories will always be one of Aretha’s best collaborations. James Cleveland was a family friend of the Franklin family and knew Aretha since she was a child. So he KNEW how to bring that REEEEE out! They took this classic and made it their own. A true masterpiece.
Climbing Higher Mountains
Written by Traditional
Climbing Higher Mountains is so amazing. The choir and Aretha blended so beautifully.
Remarks by Reverend C.L. Franklin
Written by C.L Franklin
We’d like very much to have Aretha’s father just come forward
Reverend C.L. Franklin
Let’s give him a hand
Reverend Cleveland, and to all of the musicians in this great choir
That took me all the way back
To the living room at home
When she was six and seven years of age
I saw you crying
And I saw you responding
But I was just about to bust wide open
You talkin’ ’bout being moved
Not only because Aretha’s my daughter, Aretha is just a strong singer
Reverend James Cleveland knows about those days
When James came to prepare our choir for a gospel broadcast
Which is still in existence
And he and Aretha used to go in the living room
And spend hours in there singing different songs
She’s influenced greatly by James
If you wanna know the truth she has never left the church.
God Will Take Care of You
Written by Traditional
Another traditional classic was another slay by the incomparable Aretha. God Will Take Care of You sends me every single time.
Written by Marvin Gaye ・Renaldo Benson ・Al Cleveland
People, we have got to come together.-Aretha Franklin, Wholy Holy, 1972.
One thing about Aretha that I will always appreciation is her genius of making any song a Gospel classic. She did just that with Marvin Gaye’s Wholy Holy!
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Written by Richard Rodgers ・Oscar Hammerstein
One of the strongest songs on the album vocally, Aretha’s take on the show tune classic You’ll Never Walk Alone is truly remarkable.
Never Grow Old
Written by Traditional
The final song on the record is Never Grow Old. Of course the legendary Queen took it on home with this traditional classic.
Aretha’s Amazing Grace album is a true gem. It is absolutely one of the best Gospel albums of all time. & Aretha KNEW what she was doing! Her artistry was truly unmatched and it is definitely missed. -MW.