Photo credits: Warner Music Group
Otis Redding, an American soul singer, initially wrote and recorded the 1965 song “Respect.” It was a crossover smash for Redding and was launched as a single from his third album titled Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul.
Aretha Franklin, a rival soul singer, recorded and reworked “Respect” in 1967, culminating in a larger success and her hallmark anthem. The instrumentation in the two renditions is vastly distinct, and a few alterations in the lyrics evolved into alternative scenarios – centered on the concept of individual value, which has been publicly perceived as critiques of masculinity and femininity.
According to the Birthday Jams website for musical history, “Respect” reigned at number one on U.S. music charts on June 4, 1967. However, Franklin’s anthemic copy of Redding’s prototype would continue to make social waves for many years after its release and climb up the pop culture ladder.
In the 1970s, Franklin’s version established a feminist hymn for the second-wave radical feminist cause. Franklin won two Grammy Awards for “Top Rhythm & Blues Recording” and “Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Female” in 1968, making it one of the greatest R&B recordings of the time.
Franklin was also accepted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1987 as a result of the song. Franklin’s version was added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2002. It was ranked number five on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2004 and number one on the list in 2021.
The Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts named it one of the “Songs of the Century.”