Meaning of “Respect” by Aretha Franklin

“Respect” is a song by the late American musical icon Aretha Franklin also known as the ‘Queen of Soul’. This song, which is one of her signature songs, was originally released by Otis Redding. Both versions of the song have slightly different meanings.

Meaning of Aretha’s Version

Franklin’s version of “Respect” is about a young, confident, independent woman telling her man that she does everything he wants from her and doesn’t see any why he disrespects her. According to her, all she demands from him is nothing short of “respect”.  Aretha’s version went on to become one of the most famous female empowerment anthems of all time.

In her 1998 autobiography titled Aretha: From These Roots, the ‘Queen of Soul’ said the lyrics of “Respect” speak to anyone who feels unappreciated. She also talked about how the song went on to become a battle cry of the civil rights movement in the United States.

Lyrics of "Respect" by Aretha Franklin

Not only an anthem for women empowerment

In addition to being a strong symbol of female empowerment, “Respect” also became a powerful anthem for African Americans and marginalized people all over the world.

“Respect” made a number of phrases popular

This tune was hugely responsible for making the following phrases very popular in the United States and abroad.

  • TCB (Take/taking care of business): The line “Take care… TCB” from the song’s chorus popularized the slang phrase “take/taking care of business” in the late 1960s in America. To take care of business basically means doing what needs to be done.
  • Sock it to me: The phrase “sock it to me” has a number of meanings, but it’s most notable meaning is “give it me”. So when Aretha Franklin sings “sock it to me” in the chorus, she’s basically saying “give it to me”. The massive success of “Respect” contributed in making this phrase a household name in America during the late 1960s.

 

Facts about “Respect”

  • Aretha’s “Respect” was written by American singer/songwriter Otis Redding.
  • The track was released on April 16th, 1967. It was the second single from Aretha’s eleventh studio album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. In 2003, this album was placed at the 83rd position on the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone‘s magazine.
  • Aretha’s version of this song went on to become one of the most successful tracks of her career. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 10 on the UK Singles Chart. This was Aretha’s first number 1 hit on the Hot 100.
  • “Respect” is arguably the most famous song of Aretha Franklin’s entire career. In 2004, the song was ranked at the #5 position on Rolling Stone‘s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All time.

 

Did “Respect” win a Grammy Award?

Yes, it did. At the 1968 Grammy Awards, the track won Aretha the first Grammy of her career. It beat three other songs, including “Tell Mama” by Etta James to become the first song to ever win the Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

Is “Respect” about Aretha Franklin’s contentious marriage with her first husband Ted White?

During her lifetime, Aretha never stated anywhere that this song was based on her personal life. However, some observers believe that its lyrics are about the rough relationship between her husband Ted and her. The marriage, which lasted from 1961 to 1969, was notorious for domestic violence. Aretha separated from Ted a year before “Respect” was released.

Does Otis Redding’s version of “Respect” mean the same as Aretha Franklin’s version?

Both versions carry a similar theme. However, Redding’s version, which came out in 1965, sees the narrator singing from the point of view of a man. According to the narrator/singer, having done all he can do for his woman, he asks just one thing in return from her – “respect”. It is widely believed that in his version, Redding isn’t using “respect” in its literal sense. He is suspected to be using it as euphemism for physical intimacy from his woman.

Differences between the versions of Redding and Aretha

The following are the major differences between the two versions of this song:

  • Aretha sings hers from a female’s perspective. Redding sings his from the point of view of a man.
  • Despite both versions demanding respect from their significant others, Aretha sings hers with a great urgency and power which can’t be found in Redding’s version.
  • Aretha’s version has a chorus (R-E-S-P-E-C-T), but Redding’s doesn’t.
  • Aretha’s rendition of this iconic song has a bridge. Redding’s version doesn’t.
  • This track was a major hit for Aretha, but this wasn’t the case for Redding.

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