Beyond Respect: Aretha Franklin records in the Marr Sound Archives

Aretha Franklin at the Kauffman center in May, 2012. (courtesy of Media Mikes)

We all know Aretha Franklin. She is (for now) the most successful American female solo artist in history. She’s the Queen of Soul who recorded the song that became an anthem for women everywhere. In 2010 Rolling Stone ranked her as the #1 singer of all time, saying “when it comes to expressing yourself through song, there is no one who can touch her. She is the reason why women want to sing.” On February 9, 2017, Rolling Stone also announced that Franklin is retiring from public performing following the release of her next album. With that in mind, we at the Marr Sound Archive want to give you a taste of some of her work that is in our collection. Some of this you may know, some not. We’ll start with the song everyone knows (or should know), and work backwards to her earliest record.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the recording and release of “Respect,” recorded at Atlantic Records Studio in New York City on February 14, 1967. The song was the lead track on the album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (released March 10, 1967, Atlantic 8139) and was later released as a single (April 29, 1967, Atlantic 45-2403). We have both the albums and the historic single. “Respect” was produced by Jerry Wexler. Wexler worked with Franklin from 1966-1975. He also has connections to the Kansas-Missouri area. In the 1930s, Wexler attended Kansas State University. Outside of school he received his introduction to Jazz and Blues music by visiting bars and music clubs along Twelfth Street in Kansas City.

Prior to working with Wexler at Atlantic Records, Aretha was with Columbia Records. Her first secular album was Aretha: with the Ray Bryant Combo, (Columbia CL1612) released by Columbia in 1961. In addition to vocals, she played piano on four tracks: “Won’t be Long” “Who Needs You?,” “Are You Sure” and “Maybe I’m a Fool”. At 18 she was still a somewhat raw talent. Below are short clips transcribed from our copy of the album. Listen closely to “Maybe I’m a Fool” and you can hear her voice break just a little.

Ray Bryant and Aretha were both signed to Columbia Records by producer John Hammond in 1959. Like Wexler, Hammond had some connections to Kansas City, having signed Count Basie to Columbia in 1936. 1959 was a big year for Hammond. That year he signed Aretha Franklin, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan, all of whom were under the age of twenty.

Aretha at about 14 years old when she was first recorded by Joe Von Battle. (courtesy www.bless-this-soul.com)

Aretha Franklin got her start singing at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit. Her father, Clarence LaVaughn Franklin, was minister there from 1946 until 1979. C.L Franklin became a central figure in the black community. According to Mark Bego, the Franklin home “played host to a virtual who’s who of popular black music.” Young Aretha was part of the church choir. Her father recognized her talent, and at 14 he began taking her to other churches to perform with gospel groups. As Reverend Franklin’s own legend grew, he organized a “traveling revival show.” As a teenager, Aretha spent several summers traveling with the road show’s choir. At the same time, Joe Von Battles was recording LPs of Reverend Franklin’s sermons. Battles was a Detroit record shop owner, and founder of JVB Records (later changed to Battle Records). In 1956, Battles recorded 14-year old Aretha Franklin at New Bethel Baptist Church. The Marr Sound Archives does not have any copies of Battle’s original album. In fact, original JVB/Battle pressings are quite probably the rarest of all Aretha records. Fortunately, the songs Battle recorded have been re-issued a number of times by Chess, Checker, Geffen, and other record labels. In our collection is a 1982 issue by Checker Records (Checker LP CH8500), for which music critic Peter Guralnick wrote the album notes. Of Franklin’s performance, Guralnick wrote “everything that Aretha would one day become, the same soulful struts that she would put into “I Never Loved a Man, “Respect,” even funky old “Dr. Feelgood,” are all here in the plain, unvarnished, but far-from-simple truth of hymns.” We are not professional music critics, but having listened to this album we think it is pretty extraordinary. The lead track on that album can be heard below.

The preceding barely scratches the surface of Aretha Franklin’s extraordinary life and career. She was a true prodigy, a gifted singer surrounded my other successful black musicians. She was seemingly destined for stardom from an early age. However her personal life was marked by a series of devastating emotional experiences. In his biography, Bego concludes that both of these factors shaped her music. Hopefully hearing her sing at various stages in her life gives readers a greater appreciation for the treasure she truly is.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sources:

Aretha Gospel. Recorded September 10, 1991. Geffen, 1991, Streaming Audio. Accessed February 20, 2017.

Bego, Mark. Aretha Franklin : The Queen of Soul. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2012.

Marr Sound Archives contains well over 100 entries for Aretha Franklin in our Library Catalog. Among these are many of her classic LPs and singles, including the ones mentioned in this post. We hope you’ll come listen to some of them soon!

Correction: Previously this post had a full version of the 1956 album. Since only UMKC network users could stream it, we’ve replaced it with a youtube link. The whole album can be heard at the Marr Sound Archives.

“You get it from both sides”

Protestors on Vine St, April 9, 1968. (courtesy UMKC Digital Special Collections)

To understand the causes of the April 1968 Race Riots, the Greater Kansas City Mental Health Foundation commissioned Robert Bechtel and Charles Wilkinson to write The Social History of a Riot: Kansas City, Missouri, April 9-13, 1969. The 1968 Riot Collection includes the complete manuscript of that book, as well as many of the interviews conducted by researchers. Interviewees included witnesses, protest participants, and members of law enforcement. There are four interviews with African-American members of the Kansas City Police Department who served during the riots. While Social History focused on these officers’ perception of racism within KCPD, the interviews paint a more complex picture. The relationship between black officers and the black community was often contradictory. The officers sympathized with civil rights protestors and felt the indignity of racism, but their sympathy for violent rioters ran out quickly. They also had a complex relationship with their fellow officers and superiors. In short, these men expressed conflict between their own identities as black men, their loyalty to their department, and their duty to uphold the law.

Major Garrison and Sergeant Walter Parker were interviewed together. At the time of the interview, Parker had been a member of KCPD for 19 years. Both men complained that even when off-duty, people knew they were officers. This could be nuisance, such as friends and relatives who wanted their tickets taken care of. It could also be serious, as when Black Panther militants threatened the safety of Parker’s family. Another interviewee, Leroy Swift, was called a “house n*****” by another black man. This insult carried a specific connotation of a black man placed in a position of power as tool of white supremacy. Interestingly, Swift said the man later admitted the insult was just for show. Parker described a similar dynamic: “I realize that it’s necessary for [Black Panther activists] to stay away from the police and call the police names and not have anything to do with them in order to keep [their movement] going.” According to Swift, many black officers in KCPD at this time were “black first and policeman second.” Being “black first” meant having some sympathy for activists. Parker and Garrison were united in calling for a constructive conversation between police and activist groups. However, they were skeptical that activist groups actually wanted to have those conversations. In other words, these officers were suspicious of militant activists, yet still empathized with them based on certain shared experiences. The activists might have shared a similar mixture of emotions.

Despite the lack of productive dialogue with activists, these officers felt they had strong ties to the African American community in Kansas City, and that these ties helped them succeed at their jobs, particularly during the riots. During the riot, “Tuckie” Saunders and two other black plainclothesmen helped one group of student protestors make an orderly march and demonstration. At one point the students asked Saunders to make a speech. The group Saunders was with seems to have been separate from the more volatile crowds. Saunders had his own method for dealing with disruptive protestors: “if [Saunders] had been in charge…he would have dispersed the kids with streams of water” because “it was cool that morning and when your clothes are wet you have to go home and change.” Saunders may have believed is method more efficient and humane than the use of mace or tear gas, which police employed during the riots.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Captain LeRoy Swift had a leadership role among officers facing the more violent protestors. At the very start of the riot, Swift and two other black officers pursued a group of black students who looted a store in plain sight of the officers. Swift speculates that the students thought the officers would look the other way because they were also black. The students were wrong. According to his account, he was later sent in to help calm things down between white police and African-American protestors. To do so he overruled some arrests made by white officers. Swift also described how some whites believed the police-enforced curfew did not apply to them.

Every officer interviewed expressed support and admiration for KCPD Chief Clarence M. Kelley. Saunders said he “was good as gold” and Swift called him “a good man” and “honest.” In contrast, Kelley’s command staff drew universal criticism from the African American officers for being racist, “biased and sneaky.” What was missing from KCPD, according to Saunders, was “black faces in high places.” Swift described a lack of sensitivity from white officers who still used the n-word with regularity. His testimony also demonstrates how black officers had to walk a fine line, and how their loyalty was always in question. If they identified too closely with the black community, they drew the suspicion of whites in the department. On the other hand, just wearing a badge was enough to alienate them from the black community.

These officers had unique insights on race relations and the responsibilities of law enforcement during this turbulent period, and they all expressed optimism that solutions could be found. It is too simplistic to characterize police and activists as natural enemies. In the case of the man who insulted LeRoy Swift, and the Black Panther activists who Sgt. Parker spoke of, their animosity towards the officers was occasionally not actually genuine. Instead, these interviews demonstrate the complex nature of the relationship between police and the communities they are asked to protect and serve.

 

Sources

Detective “Tuckie” Saunders, Interview Transcript, Box 1, Folder 35, 1968 Riot Collection, LaBudde Special Collections, UMKC.

Maj. Garrison and Sgt. Walter Parker, Interview with Jeanie Meyer, June 2, 1969, Box 1, Folder 31, 1968 Riot Collection, Labudde Special Collections, UMKC.

LeRoy Swift, Interview Notes, Box 1, Folder 35, 1968 Riot Collection, LaBudde Special Collections, UMKC.

Rare Charlie Parker Image Discovered!

Earlier this spring a rare image of Charlie Parker was discovered – it is the only known photograph of the jazz legend playing in Kansas City!  Get the entire scoop in an article by Chuck Haddix, published in the latest issue of JAM Magazine:   Bird-at-the-Jelly-Joint-JAM-2015-Aug-Sep-Oct

Charlie Parker playing at the Jelly Joint, a hangout frequented by students from the University of Kansas City (now UMKC).

Charlie Parker playing at the Jelly Joint, a hangout frequented by students from the University of Kansas City (now UMKC).

40 Years of Pride – Part 22

So, why Pride?  Hasn’t the LGBT community come so far that “Gay Pride” is unnecessary?  Granted, the achievements made in the struggle for civil rights have been breathtaking as of late, especially, of course, in the push for same-sex marriage.  But those accomplishments didn’t just happen.  They were the result of decades of struggle by known and unknown individuals seeking a life without persecution based on who they were and demanding to be treated equally as any other citizen of this country.  The fact that they achieved success is such a relatively short time is astounding.  We celebrate Pride to celebrate them.

It is because of them that, in one lifetime, we went from this:

Undesirable Discharge from military, given to thousands of gays and lesbians

Undesirable Discharge from the military, given to thousands of gays and lesbians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

to this:

Welcome home!

Welcome home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In one lifetime, from this:

1965 march at the White House protesting treatment of homosexual federal employees

1965 march at the White House protesting treatment of homosexual federal employees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

to this:

Mid-America Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

Mid-America Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

 

 

 

 

 

 

In one lifetime, from this:

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, founders of the first lesbian advocacy group in the US in 1955

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, founders of the first lesbian advocacy group in the US.  At their first meeting in 1955 they made sure that the curtains were drawn so they wouldn’t be seen from the outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

to this:

Martin and Lyon at their first wedding ceremony in 2004 in San Francisco

Martin and Lyon at their first wedding ceremony in 2004 in San Francisco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s plenty to be proud of.

Happy Pride, Kansas City!  Here’s to another 40 years!

40 Years of Pride – Part 21

So what do the next 40 years hold for Kansas City Pride Celebrations?  Recent years have seen the development of Pride for specific populations within the LGBT community:

Black Pride 2014 Poster

Black Pride 2014 Poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Pride 2015 Poster

Black Pride 2015 Poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Latino Pride 2015 Banner

Latino Pride 2015 Banner

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether these celebrations can be seen as positive or additional fracturing of the community is up for debate.  But as we move toward what we hope will be additional civil rights accomplishments in a post-same-sex-marriage world, how will Pride be affected?  Will we even need a Pride Celebration?

40 Years of Pride – Part 20

On this historic day in the struggle for LGBT rights, recall some of the important national figures in that battle who appeared at Kansas City Pride Celebrations.  They, and many others like them, paved the way for the marriage equality decision handed down today :

Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer, 1997

Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer, at Pride in 1997

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colonel Cammermeyer was the highest ranking military officer to be discharged because of her sexual orientation.  Upon her discharge she sued, and won a victory in US District Court, enabling her to serve openly under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

 

Technical Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, 1978

Technical Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, at Pride in 1978

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergeant Matlovich received national attention as the first gay service member to purposely out himself to the military to fight its ban on gays.

 

Rev. Troy Perry, 1979

Rev. Troy Perry, at Pride in 1979

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reverend Perry founded the Metropolitan Christian Church in 1968.  Kansas City’s chapter was formed five years later.

 

40 Years of Pride, Part 19

In addition to many different musicians, a number of comedians have trod the boards at Kansas City Pride, including:

ANT, 2011

ANT, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phyllis Diller, 2000

Phyllis Diller, 2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharon Gless, 2002

Sharon Gless, 2002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judy Tenuta, 1997

Judy Tenuta, 1997

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

40 Years of Pride – Part 18

As local Pride Celebrations became more commercial over the years, a wide variety of notable musical acts have performed at them.  Here is a sample:

C+C Music Factory, 1997 and 2000

C+C Music Factory, 1997 and 2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

En Vogue, 2006, 2010

En Vogue, 2006, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Holliday, 2012

Jennifer Holliday, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chaka Khan, 2007

Chaka Khan, 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lisa Lisa, 1999

Lisa Lisa, 1999

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pansy Division, 2004

Pansy Division, 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

CeCe Peniston, 1999

CeCe Peniston, 1999

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RuPaul

RuPaul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jody Watley

Jody Watley, 2002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chely Wright, 2011

Chely Wright, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

40 Years of Pride – Part 17

In the last 40 years, Kansas City’s Pride Celebrations have been held throughout the city.  Here’s a list of most of those venues:

1975:  Gay Community House, 3825 Virginia

1978, 1979, 1994, 2004-2009:  Penn Valley Park/Liberty Memorial

1988-92:  Southmoreland Park

1993:  Roanoke Park

1995-2003:  Barney Allis Plaza

2010, 2015:  Berkley Riverfront Park

2011-2012:  Power and Light District

2013:  Westport

2014:  West Bottoms

Of course, it wouldn’t be a festival without a t-shirt, so here are the logos from a random assortment of Pride Celebrations:

1990, front

1990, front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1990, back

1990, back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1991

1991

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1997

1997

 

 

 

 

 

1998

1998

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2000, featuring the fabulous Flo, beautiful Belle Starr, and legendary Melinda Ryder

2000, featuring the fabulous Flo, beautiful Belle Starr, and legendary Melinda Ryder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Undated

Undated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Undated

Undated

 

 

 

 

 

40 Years of Pride – Part 16

By the 2000-teens, Pride Celebrations in Kansas City were on the decline.  Perceived focus towards a target market group rather than the entire community, uneven production values, and ongoing concern around fiscal responsibilities have all contributed to a sense of frustration and apathy about Pride.  Indeed, there have been attempts at offering what some might consider competing Pride events.  For these reasons, this 40th anniversary year brought a new emphasis on improvements to the Celebration, resulting in the largest crowds of the decade so far.

Pride 2015 volleyball game

Pride 2015 volleyball game

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pride 2015 Human Rights Campaign Booth

Pride 2015 Human Rights Campaign Booth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HASL Booth

HASL Booth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Missouri Air National Guard Booth (!)

Missouri Air National Guard Booth (!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heartland Men's Chorus

Heartland Men’s Chorus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local drag legends Flo and Melinda Ryder

Local drag legends Flo and Melinda Ryder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Clifford, one of the "First Ladies of Disco"

Linda Clifford, one of the “First Ladies of Disco”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kit Bond Bridge showing its Pride

The Kit Bond Bridge showing its Pride