I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You

I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You

100 Best Albums When Aretha Franklin made the decision to pursue a career in secular music after getting her start singing gospel, she knew she wanted to be a crossover artist—one who could follow in the footsteps of entertainers like Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington. She even took the step of signing with Columbia Records’ John Hammond, the talent guru who’d discovered Bob Dylan—and who would later sign Bruce Springsteen. Franklin would release nine albums with Columbia—an entire career’s worth—before moving to Atlantic Records and working with producer Jerry Wexler, the legendary record man who, alongside his partner Ahmet Ertegun, signed and recorded the greatest R&B artists of the 1950s and 1960s. I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, released in 1967, is the first effort in this partnership. The album opens with Franklin’s take on Otis Redding’s “Respect”—a version so definitive and dynamic, Redding had no choice but to acknowledge its superiority. “This girl has taken that song from me,” he told Wexler. “Ain’t no longer my song. From now on, it belongs to her.” That’s high praise indeed, considering both the source, and the fact that Otis’ version itself is running on premium octane. But Franklin had come to Wexler with her arrangement of “Respect” already prepared. And she’d come up with arrangements or scratch vocals for many of the record’s other key numbers, many of which she had co-written, including such highlights as “Dr. Feelgood,” “Baby, Baby, Baby,” and “Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream.” Wexler, for his part, introduced Franklin to the Swampers, the house band at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The connection between Franklin and the Swampers was electric—“They understand me,” she would tell Wexler—and led to “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” yet another I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You track that would go on to become a classic. After finishing up her sessions in Alabama, Franklin completed work on the album in New York City, where she was joined by her sisters, Carolyn and Erma, on backup vocals. Wexler’s production would turn out to be the right sound for the right artist at the right time, with the single release of “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You” climbing both the R&B and pop charts. After years in the music industry, Franklin finally had her first smash hit.

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