Aretha Franklin – Respect | Lyrics Meaning & Song Review


Aretha Franklin is nicknamed “Queen of Soul” and she really deserved this title with classic hits such as “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Chain of Fools”, “Think” and “I say a little prayer”. However, she is best known for her equality hymn “Respect”. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the story and inspiration behind this song.

Aretha Franklin released her rendition of “Respect” in 1967. Yes, the original version of the song was written and released by singer Otis Redding in 1965. Musically, the two versions differ a lot and not so much in terms of the lyrics. Both versions of the songs were essentially meant to demand respect from their partners – Otis Redding from his wife and Aretha from her man. Aretha’s version has become a signature for women’s empowerment and equality.

Aretha Franklin’s version of “Respect” rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and spent two weeks there. He also reached 10th place in the UK Singles Rankings. By comparison, Otis’ version is only ranked 35th on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Aretha’s version of the song is also ranked # 5 on the “500 Greatest Songs of All” list. time ”by Rolling Stone. He is also inducted into the list of 500 songs that shaped rock and roll by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“Respect” earned Aretha Franklin her first two Grammy Awards in 1968 for “Best Rhythm & Blues Recording” and “Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Female”, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2002 The Library of Congress honored Franklin’s version by adding it to the National Recording Registry. It was also included in the “Songs of the Century” list, by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.

History of “Respect” by Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin was only 24 when her version of “Respect” was released, and 1965 was not the most “equal” period of gender discrimination. In 2018, CBS News described Otis Redding’s version of the song as “An upbeat version of the traditional family values ​​of the 1950s and 1960s: the man works all day, the man comes home for dinner and demands respect from his wife (with a) masculine appeal from a man who works at a housewife who feels a bit misogynistic through today’s lens.

And Aretha Franklin reversed the original. She changed some of the lyrics based on what she had in mind for the song. “Well, I heard Mr. Redding’s version. I just loved it – and decided I wanted to record it ”, Aretha said in an interview.

The song has become a crucial part of the ongoing battle for gender equality. The producer of the song Wexler said in an interview with Rolling Stone, that Franklin’s song was “Global in its influence, with accents of the civil rights and gender equality movement. It was a call for dignity.

Although this was never confirmed by Aretha, another inspiration for her to recreate “Respect” could have been the domestic violence she suffered with her husband and manager Ted White. In the 2014 biography “Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin,” the author writes that “ugly physical fights were not unusual” between Aretha and Ted. The two separated in 1968, a year after the song was released.

Watch Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” animated video

Meaning of the lyrics to “Respect” and review of the song

Otis Redding’s version of the song portrays a classic ’60s family situation where the man is the breadwinner and the woman is a housewife. So, after a hard day’s work, when he comes home, Otis demands respect from his wife.

Aretha’s version tells the POV of the wife in the same situation but demands respect from the husband when he comes home. In an interview with NPR, Aretha Franklin spoke about the song; “Later it was taken up as a war cry by the civil rights movement. But when I recorded it, it was kind of a man-woman kind of thing. And more in a general sense, person-to-person – I’m going to give you respect and I would like to regain that respect or I expect the respect to be returned.

Verse 1

In the first verse, Aretha Franklin sings about the power she has in the relationship that man does not see.

When Otis sings “What you want, honey, you got it” it implies that man has provided all his needs by working hard. She has nothing more to accomplish. Aretha changes these words to “What you want, baby, I got it” which implies that she too has a certain power in this relationship.

Verse 2

In the second verse, Aretha Franklin apparently responds to Otis Redding’s original lyrics. In Otis’ version, he sings “You can hurt me, honey, while I’m gone.” These lines subtly imply that he allows her to cheat on him when he’s gone to work. However, Aretha changes these lyrics to “I’m not going to hurt you because I don’t want to.” These words say she could do wrong if she wanted to, but she doesn’t choose to do it, and it’s not for him to give her permission.

Verse 3

The third verses of either song are also apparently a back-and-forth joke. In Otis’ version, he sings that he will give him his hard-earned money to manage household expenses and in return, he only seeks her respect. In Aretha’s version, she says the same thing: she will give her all her hard-earned money and in return, she waits for his respect. This might be the most relevant part of the song to Aretha’s personal life, which has been documented to be filled with domestic violence with her husband Ted White. Although Ted White was a business leader, including the one in Aretha Franklin’s career, Aretha would undoubtedly have been the one making the big bucks in their house.

Watch Aretha Franklin perform “Respect” live in 1968

Verse 4

In the song’s fourth verse, Aretha Franklin sings that she is a financially independent woman, which would not have been something well digested by 60s society. So Aretha was breaking new ground in the song.

Verse 5

These lyrics are all new added by Aretha Franklin herself. It emphasizes the word respect and adds in the acronym TCB which means “taking care of business”.


Aretha Franklin spoke about the infamous “Sock it to me” in an interview with NPR; “My sister Carolyn and I got together. I lived in a small apartment on the West Side of Detroit. And [with the] piano by the window, watching the cars go by, and we made up that infamous phrase, the phrase “Sock It to me”. Some of the girls would say that to guys, like, put it on me this way or put it on me this way. Nothing sexual, and it’s not sexual. It was non-sexual, just a cliché line… It kind of went on and on from there.

And the legacy of the song lives on, as does the memory of Aretha Franklin. The song is still considered a hymn to equality, rights and the empowerment of women.

Let us know what you think of this song in the comments below. Check out the full lyrics for Aretha’s version here and Otis’s version here.

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