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‘This Girl’s In Love With You’: Aretha Franklin’s Beloved Covers Album
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In Depth

‘This Girl’s In Love With You’: Aretha Franklin’s Beloved Covers Album

Tackling The Beatles, The Band and others, ‘This Girl’s In Love With You’ found Aretha Franklin claiming much-loved songs for her own.

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When you’ve recorded 15 studio albums, are at your career peak – or near enough – and acclaimed as the greatest singer of your generation, what do you do when it is time to record another record? While it might seem you have nothing left to prove, there are still one or two things you might want to confirm, such as who really is the “Queen Of Soul”, and the fact that when you choose a song, it becomes your own. With a couple of notable exceptions, Aretha Franklin’s 1970 album This Girl’s In Love With You is packed with other artists’ pre-loved songs. But after Franklin sang them, they became her songs.

Listen to ‘This Girl’s In Love With You’ here.

Awash with love

One exception is Let It Be. Nobody thinks of it as anything other than a Beatles song, yet Franklin released it two months before The Beatles, on 15 January 1970, when This Girl’s In Love With You was released. This didn’t come as a shock to Paul McCartney, however, who’d recognised the song’s potential for Franklin and sent her a demo of it so the iconoclastic US singer could get a – very righteous – feel for it. But Lady Soul wasn’t finished with the Lennon-McCartney songbook for this album: she also transformed Eleanor Rigby, changing its perspective to a first-person account from the titular lonely person. Was it possible for McCartney’s intimate slice-of-life tale to become a rollicking R&B confessional? You bet it was, and the public approved, making it a US Top 20 single.

By contrast, the biggest, most distinctive hit on This Girl’s In Love With You was a Franklin original. She wrote Call Me after she heard two lovers talking on a New York City street and was struck by the emotion one of them invested in the words she took for the song’s title. A touching tale of lovers soon to be parted but carrying their passion in the hearts wherever they are, and with beautifully tender organ from Barry Beckett, and backing singers The Sweet Inspirations on sparkling form, Call Me is awash with love.

Franklin’s natural soul

Staying with the deeply romantic, the album’s title track is a relaxed swing through the Bacharach-David classic, yet Franklin’s vocal is far more emphatic than versions by Herb Alpert and Dionne Warwick, even though she isn’t forcing anything into the song that doesn’t fit: it’s just her natural soul.

Perhaps to emphasise who the Queen Of Soul really was, there’s an electrifying cut of Son Of A Preacher Man, a song originally intended for Franklin until Atlantic production supremo Jerry Wexler directed it towards his label’s new signing, Dusty Springfield. (Franklin’s sister Erma also recorded the song, though her cut sounded closer to Dusty’s than Aretha’s.) Springfield may have enjoyed the bigger hit with it, as Aretha’s version was tucked onto on the B-side of Call Me, but Franklin’s mighty update of Share Your Love With Me outperformed Bobby Bland’s 1963 original. She excised most of that song’s country flavours, leaving only mellow soul, and it made No.13 on the Billboard Hot 100. On the other hand, Aretha retained a country undertow in James Carr’s signature song, The Dark End Of The Street, and it worked just fine for her, quickly claiming its place among the best Aretha Franklin songs.

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Elsewhere, there’s a spunky cut of The Band’s Robbie Robertson-penned The Weight, a song so fashionable back then that it was obligatory to cover it. Had Atlantic been inclined to release Franklin’s version as a single, it would have been another hit; and, yes, that’s the legendary Duane Allman on slide guitar – who else? He also plays on Ron Miller’s delightfully bittersweet It Ain’t Fair, which is also freighted with the unmistakable saxophone playing of King Curtis, while Franklin catches the song’s downbeat mood perfectly: it’s surely This Girl’s In Love With You’s secret gem and a highlight of Franklin’s career which has passed largely unacknowledged. The album closes with another slowie, Sit Down And Cry, previously sung by underground soul legend Jean Wells but somewhat short of exposure until Franklin picked it up.

It’s easy to regard This Girl’s In Love With You as just another album from an era where a further Aretha Franklin record was always just down the road. Yet it was still a US chart hit, and even the slightest investigation reveals ten tracks of full-power Aretha – which, of course, is several times the wattage of mere mortals. Just play It Ain’t Fair, or hear the soul juice she brings to the Beatles covers: ain’t nobody could do it like this. Franklin was so talented, it wasn’t fair on the competition.

Find out where Aretha Franklin ranks among our best female singers of all time.

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