I grew up in Gospel. –Aretha Franklin
My growing up in a mostly white Baptist church in a small town farming community could have been an isolating experience. However, my town was on the California central coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I remember many times going over to my friend Bill's house who lived one block parallel to the the US 101 freeway. In our junior high years starting around 1967, hippies hitch-hiked both north and southbound by the freeway on-ramps at Main Street. Maybe that's where my dreams of going to bigger places started...
How this links up with Aretha Franklin is that for me, she is one of those singers that took me to places in my mind that I had not experienced yet in reality. For me growing up in a white bread church, standing and singing hymns seemed so stiff and rote. I hadn't heard the sound of real gospel music until I heard Aretha's voice on AM local radio. In 1967 when Respect came out, I was hearing her soaring soul transformed to a secular medium. I loved the sounds of R&B and soul even though I had no direct connection to the experience. Aretha, like so many musicians of the time provided that bridge for me with her music to a connected spirituality that was real and authentic. As I got into my later teens and early twenties, I moved away from the church, but always appreciated black gospel because it was music you could feel, it soared. If you really want to go to church, just listen to Aretha's 1972 album, Amazing Grace. There's no need to sit in a hard pew listening to a pastor busting your spirit and limiting your options. Aretha's voice (and piano playing) will set you free! (Amazing Grace album on Youtube).
Here's my Aretha playlist including my favorite Aretha song (written by Stevie Wonder),
Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do). This song reminds me of being out of high school and going to Alan Hancock Jr. College in 1974, a very good year in my life. Anyway, the playlist tends to go back to that founding gospel R&B rock 'n' roll soul sound that opened up the world to a lot of people. Rest in peace our sweet queen.
Note - Catch the American Bandstand video featuring Respect in 1967. I just love all the white teens dancing to Aretha's music, as it's a geek flashback of all the white kids like me from anywhere USA.