Respect (song)

"Respect" is a song originally released by American singer-songwriter Otis Redding in 1965. The song became a 1967 hit and signature song for singer Aretha Franklin. The music in the two versions is significantly different, and through a few changes in the lyrics, the stories told by the songs have a different flavor. Redding's version is a plea from a desperate man, who will give his woman anything she wants. He will not care if she does him wrong, as long as he gets his due respect when he brings money home.[1] However, Franklin's version is a declaration from a strong, confident woman, who knows that she has everything her man wants. She never does him wrong, and demands his "respect" - in the form of appropriate levels of physical attention.[2] Franklin's version adds the "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" chorus and the backup singers' refrain of "Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me...".

Respect Redding.jpg
Single by Otis Redding
from the album Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul
B-side"Ole Man Trouble"
Songwriter(s)Otis Redding
Producer(s)Steve Cropper
Otis Redding singles chronology
"I've Been Loving You Too Long"
"Just One More Day"
Single by Aretha Franklin
from the album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You
B-side"Dr. Feelgood"
ReleasedApril 29, 1967
RecordedFebruary 14, 1967
StudioAtlantic, New York City
Songwriter(s)Otis Redding
Producer(s)Jerry Wexler
Aretha Franklin singles chronology
"I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)"
"Baby I Love You"

Franklin's interpretation was a landmark for the feminist movement, and is often considered one of the best songs of the R&B era,[3] earning her two Grammy Awards in 1968 for "Best Rhythm & Blues Recording" and "Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Female", and was inducted in 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 placed number five on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[4] It was also included in the list of "Songs of the Century", by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. Franklin included a live recording on the album Aretha in Paris (1968).


At first a ballad, "Respect" was brought to Redding by Speedo Sims, who intended to record it with his band, the Singing Demons. No one is really sure who wrote the original version of the song. Bandleader Percy Welch said it was a guitarist at Bobby Smith's recording studio in Macon.[5] Redding took Sims' version, rewrote the lyrics and sped up the tempo. Sims went with the band to the Muscle Shoals studios, but was unable to produce a good version. Redding then decided to sing the song himself, which Sims agreed to. Redding also promised to credit Sims, but this never happened. Sims never pressed Redding on the issue, possibly because he himself had not really written it in the first place.[5]

The song was included on Redding's third studio album, Otis Blue (1965).[6] The album became widely successful, even outside of his largely R&B and blues fan base. When released in the summer of 1965, the song reached the top five on Billboard's Black Singles Chart, and crossed over to pop radio's white audience, peaking at number 35 there. At the time, the song became Redding's second largest crossover hit (after "I've Been Loving You Too Long") and paved the way to future presence on American radio. Redding performed it at the Monterey Pop Festival.[7]

The two versions of "Respect," as originally recorded by Otis Redding and as later re-imagined by Aretha Franklin, are significantly different. While both songs have similar styles and tempos the writers and performers of the lyrics clearly had two different messages in mind. The songs differ lyrically in the refrains, and even the verses have a different slant.[8]

"Redding's version is characteristically funky, with his raspy-soulful singing and electric vocal charisma front and center."[2] His song utilizes "playful horns and sexy, mock-beleaguered vocals" to deliver lyrics without any subtext.[2] The message of a man demanding respect from his woman for being the breadwinner is decisively clear. Redding's version was written from the perspective of a hardworking man who can only look forward to getting home and finally receiving the respect he deserves from his family. His version is less a plea for respect and more a comment on a man's feeling of worth in his work life and at home. He mentions that he's "about to, just give you all of my money", and that all he wants in return is respect. The woman he is singing to can even "do me wrong, honey, if you wanna to/You can do me wrong honey, while I'm gone."[8] The lyrics are repetitive and straightforward throughout the song; there isn't any layering of messages or intentions.

The original version of "Respect" was produced by Steve Cropper, who also played instrumentals for the hit track along with William Bell and Earl Sims on backup vocals.

Producer Jerry Wexler booked Franklin for a series of recording dates in January–February 1967, starting with "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You", recorded in Alabama at FAME Studios by engineer Tom Dowd. After an altercation between the studio owner and Franklin's husband and manager, Ted White, the sessions continued ten days later in New York without White, recording "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man", using the same engineer and the same musicians, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, affectionately known as the "Swampers", as in Alabama.[9]

During the following week, they recorded "Respect", which Franklin had been performing in her live shows for several years. Her version of the song flipped the gender of the lyrics, as worked out by Franklin with her sisters Erma and Carolyn. Franklin instructed the rhythm section how to perform her established arrangement of the "stop-and-stutter" syncopation, and in the studio she worked out new parts for the backing singers.[10] "Respect" was recorded on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1967.[11] The repeated "sock it to me" line, sung by Franklin's sisters, was an idea that Carolyn and Aretha had worked out together; spelling out "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" was (according to engineer Tom Dowd) Carolyn's idea.[12] The phrase "Sock it to me" became a household expression.[13] In an interview with WHYY's Fresh Air in 1999, Aretha said, "Some of the girls were saying that to the fellas, like 'sock it to me' in this way or 'sock it to me' in that way. It's not sexual. It was nonsexual, just a cliché line."[14]

In the bridge, King Curtis' tenor saxophone soloed over the chords from Sam and Dave's song "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby".[12] Franklin played piano for the number; in an interview, Spooner Oldham explained it was not uncommon for Franklin herself to play accompanying piano. The overall arrangement was by co-producer Arif Mardin, based on the ideas Franklin brought in. Said Mardin: "I have been in many studios in my life, but there was never a day like that. It was like a festival. Everything worked just right."[15]

The resulting song was featured on Franklin's 1967 breakthrough Atlantic Records debut album, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. As the title track became a hit on both R&B and pop radio, Atlantic Records arranged for the release of this new version of "Respect" as a single.

So much of what made "Respect" a hit—and an anthem—came from the Franklin rearrangement (including the Muscle Shoals musician's soulful guitar hook, the background vocals, and the added sax solo/chords).[1] Franklin's rendition found greater success than the original, spending two weeks atop the Billboard Pop Singles chart, and eight weeks on the Billboard Black Singles chart. The changes in lyrics and production drove Franklin's version to become an anthem for the increasingly large Civil Rights and Women's Rights movements. She altered the lyrics to represent herself, a strong woman demanding respect from her man.[16] Franklin's demands for "Respect" were "associated either with black freedom struggles or women’s liberation."[13]

The song also became a hit internationally, reaching number 10 in the United Kingdom, and helping to transform Franklin from a domestic star into an international one. Otis Redding himself was impressed with the performance of the song. At the Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of the cover's release, he was quoted playfully describing "Respect" as the song "that a girl took away from me, a friend of mine, this girl she just took this song". "When her hit single 'Respect' climbed the charts in July 1967, some fans declared that the summer of 1967 was 'the summer of 'Retha, Rap, and Revolt.'"[17]



Franklin's version of the song contains the famous lines (as printed in the lyrics included in the 1985 compilation album Atlantic Soul Classics):

Find out what it means to me
Take care of... TCB[18]

"TCB" is an abbreviation, commonly used in the 1960s and 1970s, meaning "taking care of business," African-American slang for pleasing one's partner.[19] "TCB in a flash" later became Elvis Presley's motto and signature. "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" and "TCB" are not present in Redding's 1965 version,[20] but he incorporated Franklin's ideas in his later performances with the Bar-Kays.

Franklin's version was released in 1967, amid notable societal changes; these included the Civil Rights Movement, the war in Vietnam, the Equal Rights Amendment, and the Black Panthers movement. Franklin's message is conveyed as a demand for increased respect towards women during this time, many of whom were playing roles as civil rights activists without adequate recognition. When asked about her audacious stance amidst the feminist and Civil Rights Movement, Franklin told the Detroit Free Press, "I don't think it's bold at all. I think it's quite natural that we all want respect—and should get it."[21]

Chart historyEdit

Otis Redding versionEdit

Chart (1967) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100[22] 35
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[23] 4

Aretha Franklin versionEdit

Chart (1967) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report) [24] 14
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[25] 17
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[26] 18
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[27] 3
Italy (FIMI)[28] 26
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[29] 7
Scotland (OCC)[30] 19
UK Singles (OCC)[31] 10
US Billboard Hot 100[32] 1
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[33] 1
West Germany (Official German Charts)[34] 23
Chart (2018) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[35] 75
Sweden Heatseeker (Sverigetopplistan)[36] 1

Certifications and salesEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[38] Platinum 600,000[37]
United States (RIAA)[39] Gold 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


Diana Ross and the Supremes with the TemptationsEdit

Because Aretha Franklin made "Respect" a hit, many who sample or cover the song refer to Franklin's version rather than Redding's. The Supremes and the Temptations were the two most successful acts signed to Berry Gordy Jr.’s Motown record label. Gordy decided to pair them up on a collaborative LP titled Diana Ross & the Supremes Join The Temptations.[40] To accompany the release of the LP, Gordy organized a prime-time special TV program entitled TCB, a commonly used abbreviation for "Taking Care of Business".[41]

Among the songs performed on the program was a cover of Aretha Franklin's version of "Respect".[42] The two groups took Franklin's message to new heights as the male versus female duet illustrated a battle in which each gender demanded their own respect.[41] Additionally, the cover highlights the Supremes’ own battle for racial equality. Much like Aretha Franklin, The Supremes’ rise to fame coincided with the civil rights movement, in which these women used their fame and status to assist the fight for racial equality. The Supremes were the Motown group which most successfully broke down racial boundaries within the popular music industry.[43] They represented racial integration, black empowerment, and black womanhood, and their cover of "Respect" with the Temptations illustrates that.[44]



"Respect" has appeared in dozens of films and still receives consistent play on radio stations. In the 1970s, Franklin's version of the song came to exemplify the feminist movement.[50] Producer Wexler said in a Rolling Stone interview, that Franklin's song was "global in its influence, with overtones of the civil-rights movement and gender equality. It was an appeal for dignity."[51] Although she had numerous hits after "Respect", and several before its release, the song became Franklin's signature song and her best-known recording. I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You was ranked eighty-third in Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" in 2003. A year later, "Respect" was fifth in the magazine's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". The song "Respect" is part of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list.[52]



  1. ^ a b "'Respect' Wasn't A Feminist Anthem Until Aretha Franklin Made It One".
  2. ^ a b c Dobkin, Matt (2004). I never loved a man the way that I love you Aretha Franklin, Respect, and the making of a soul music masterpiece (First St. Martin's Griffin ed.). New York: St Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0312318294.
  3. ^ "Here are the 10 best covers of all time from here to eternity". Retrieved October 10, 2019.
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  6. ^ Guralnick 1999, pp. 184–185.
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  10. ^ Wilson, Carl (August 16, 2018). "How Aretha Franklin Created 'Respect'". Slate.
  11. ^ "How Aretha Franklin's 'Respect' became an anthem for civil rights and feminist". Washington Post. August 14, 2018.
  12. ^ a b "Aretha Franklin, 'Respect'". Rolling Stone.
  13. ^ a b Feldstein, Ruth (2013). How It Feels To Be Free: Black Woman Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-19-061072-2.
  14. ^ "'Respect' Wasn't A Feminist Anthem Until Aretha Franklin Made It One". February 14, 2017. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
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  17. ^ Smith, Suzanne (1999). Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit. USA: Harvard University Press. pp. 210. ISBN 0-674-00063-3.
  18. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 52 - The Soul Reformation: Phase three, soul music at the summit. [Part 8] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
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  23. ^ "Otis Redding Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
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  31. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  32. ^ "Aretha Franklin Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  33. ^ "Aretha Franklin Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  34. ^ " – Aretha Franklin – Respect". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved February 28, 2019. To see peak chart position, click "TITEL VON Aretha Franklin"
  35. ^ "Chart Track: Week 34, 2018". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  36. ^ "Veckolista Heatseeker, vecka 34, 2018" (in Swedish). Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved April 24, 2021.
  37. ^ Copsey, Rob (August 16, 2018). "Aretha Franklin's biggest hits: Her most downloaded and streamed singles revealed". Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on August 17, 2018. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  38. ^ "British single certifications – Aretha Franklin – Respect". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved May 22, 2020.Select singles in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Respect in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  39. ^ "American single certifications – Aretha Franklin – Respect". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved July 23, 2018. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  40. ^ "Diana Ross And The Supremes & The Temptations – Diana Ross & The Supremes Join The Temptations". Discogs. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  41. ^ a b Paul (March 19, 2016). "TCB – The Original Cast Soundtrack (1968)". THE DIANA ROSS PROJECT. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  42. ^ "Diana Ross And The Supremes With The Temptations – The Original Sound Track From TCB". Discogs. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  43. ^ Smith, Suzanne (2003). Dancing in the Street. Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press.
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  47. ^
  48. ^ "Dance Club Songs - Year-End". Billboard. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
  49. ^ "Pop Songs - Year-End". Billboard. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
  50. ^ Kembrew McLeod et al: Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling, Duke University Press, 2001, p. 228.
  51. ^ Deborah Norville: The Power of Respect: Benefit from the Most Forgotten Element of Success, Thomas Nelson Inc, 2009, p. 18.
  52. ^ "500 Songs That Shaped Rock". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved November 15, 2014.


External linksEdit