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c. 1969

In the recording studio with Aretha Franklin and Duane Allman

She was the queen of more than soul

The Queen inspects the sleeve of an LP.

Fifty years ago, this set of photographs was captured showing the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, recording The Weight.  You might remember it as the anthem penned by members of The Band: “I pulled into Nazareth, just a feelin’ ’bout a half past dead…”

Released on her Soul ’69 album, the song also featured the slide guitar of Duane Allman, of Allman Brothers fame.

The session took place on January 9th, 1969 in the New York City studios of Atlantic Records, Aretha’s home since 1966. Prior to that, the prodigiously talented singer had been arguably miscast, recording a range of jazz and pop albums for another label, none of which allowed her to shine.

But Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler had a different idea: “I took her to church, sat her down at the piano, and let her be herself.”

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And what Wexler discovered—a fact often overshadowed by her formidable voice—was that Franklin was also a highly talented pianist and musical arranger. She went into vast written detail about the sound she was seeking, and how to achieve it. The Queen of Soul, yes, but also The Queen of the Studio. 

1969
Aretha Franklin sings in the Atlantic Records studio during “The Weight” recording session.
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images.
1969
Franklin and producer Jerry Wexler in the Atlantic Records studio.
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images.
1969
Franklin sings into the mic.
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images.
1969
Enjoying a hamburger while sitting at the piano.
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images.
1969
Reviewing a copy of the sleeve of the album “Aretha Franklin: Soul ’69”.
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images.
1969
Franklin looks on from the back of the control room of the recording studio during playback of her track. Session musician Duane Allman (left), producers Jerry Wexler (in black), Arif Mardin (in white) and engineer Tom Dowd (right) are also present.
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images.
1969
Franklin at the piano.
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images.
1969
Producers Tom Dowd (left) and Jerry Wexler with Franklin.
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images.
1969
Franklin smiles.
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images.
1969
Franklin sings in the Atlantic Records studio with Duane Allman on guitar and a bass player.
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images.
1969
Franklin smokes as cigarette as she works in the studio.
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images.
1969
Franklin sings at a piano in the Atlantic Records studio as producer Wexler looks on.
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images.

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