IT WAS THE EVENING of January 24, 1967, downtown Florence, Alabama. Rick Hall, the owner of Fame Studios in nearby Muscle Shoals, was stood in the doorway of a motel room occupied by soul singer Aretha Franklin and her manager husband Ted White. A disagreement, to put it mildly, was in progress.
“Are you calling me a red neck?” a fuming Hall bellowed at Ted White. “Well, you sure look like one to me,” White spat back. “Why don’t you go f**k yourself?” yelled Hall with a shove. White retaliated with a punch that connected with Hall’s jaw. Hall returned the blow and suddenly the pair were rolling on the floor, arms flailing in a flurry of fists.
White and Franklin were soon on a flight back to New York and, as Lois Wilson writes in the latest issue of MOJO magazine, the sessions for Franklin’s I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You appeared over almost before they’d begun.
“I was livid,” said Atlantic label boss Jerry Wexler, who’d risked his reputation to sign Franklin, whose recording career at the rival Columbia label had stalled. “We had only completed one song and had the beginnings of one other. Luckily, the finished one was one of the greatest songs ever recorded.”
“Aretha was using this album to tell her story, both the good and bad bits.”
In MOJO 279 – on sale in the UK now and coming to the rest of the world shortly – Wilson traces the miraculous turnaround in the tale of Franklin’s Atlantic debut, and fills in the back story of the album’s volcanic title song, written in an afternoon by aspiring composer Ronnie Shannon after chancing upon Ted White in a Detroit barber’s.
But I Never Loved A Man… was also a clue to the mystery of Franklin’s enigmatic personal life and her troubled marriage to White. “Aretha was using this album to tell her story, both the good and bad bits,” said Wexler, who revived album sessions in New York in February 1967, importing the Muscle Shoals musicians who’d shone on the title track (minus a non grata Rick Hall) to complete to the album’s complement of extraordinary recordings – including Respect, Dr Feelgood and Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.
Wilson goes on to explore the impact and legacy of one of soul’s instant classic albums while MOJO’s in-house soul guru, Geoff Brown, weighs in with a profile of Franklin’s sax colossus, King Curtis, and runs down the other landmark soul albums of 1967: James Carr, The Four Tops and more.
Also in MOJO 279, Black Sabbath bow out; Sylvie Simmons (and Bono) hymn the greatness of Leonard Cohen; Steve Van Zandt remembers saving Paul Simon’s life; the sociopathic soundquake that was New York’s No Wave… Plus: our essential music tips for 2017.
Meanwhile, MOJO’s covermounted FREE HEAVY NUGGETS CD delivers mindblowing tracks by Wolf People, Boris, Sleep and more, plus Charles Bradley’s immense cover of Black Sabbath’s Changes.