*Her voice was as bold and thunderous as her civil rights support quiet and discreet.
Jesse Jackson wrote of Aretha Franklin in USA TODAY after her death in 2018: “When Dr. King was alive, several times she helped us make payroll. On one occasion, we took an 11-city tour with her as Aretha Franklin and Harry Belafonte … and they put gas in the vans. She did 11 concerts for free and hosted us at her home and did a fundraiser for my campaign. Aretha has always been a very socially conscious artist, an inspiration, not just an entertainer.”
The close friendship between Dr. King and Franklin’s father, Rev. Clarence LaVaughn “CL” Franklin, is well known. Aretha’s presence with King throughout the movement is well documented. He presented her with a special award on behalf of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference just two months before he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Five days later, a 26-year-old Aretha sang one of his favorite songs, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” at his funeral service.
Two days later, on April 15, 1968, Aretha Franklin went into the Atlantic Records studios in New York and recorded “Think.”
Co-written with her “husbandger” Teddy White, produced by Jerry Wexler, and backed by the famed Muscle Shoals rhythm section, Franklin breathed pure fire into the whole operation, scorching the track with lyrics that in today’s parlance would convey: “You got me f**ked up.”
Think (With Lyrics) – Aretha Franklin
The song’s recurring refrain of “freedom” was no doubt inspired by Dr. King’s life, legacy, and his own recurring refrain of “freedom.” “Think” was released as a single on May 2, 1968 from Franklin’s 13th studio album, “Aretha Now.” The black and female empowerment anthem reached No. 7 on Billboard Hot 100, becoming Franklin’s seventh top 10 hit in the United States. It also became her sixth No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart.
Franklin re-recorded “Think” for the 1980 movie “The Blues Brothers,” starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi and featuring her cameo appearance as a diner owner/waitress. The updated “Think” featured the Blues Brothers band and background vocals from Franklin’s sister Carolyn and cousin Brenda Corbett.
Because she is the Queen of Soul and was not comfortable with lip-synching, the scene reportedly required a number of takes and lots of creative editing. Watch below.
After a brief career lull in the late seventies, this 1980 re-recording of “Think” and her cameo appearance in the film as a waitress provided just the momentum needed to propel her back onto the charts with the mid-eighties anthems “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” and “Freeway of Love.”
Below is Aretha’s first encounter with the musicians of Muscle Shoals recording studio, a recording experience she called “a milestone and the turning point of my career.” Out of it came her first ever million-selling record, “I Never Loved A Man the Way That I Love You.”