If you’re a fan of soulful music, then you can’t go wrong with Aretha Franklin’s take on “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.” This classic hymn has been covered by countless artists over the years, but there’s something special about Franklin’s rendition.
Known as the Queen of Soul, she brings her signature style to this beloved song, infusing it with emotion and passion. If you’ve never heard her version before, you’re in for a treat.
“Aretha Franklin’s powerful voice is perfectly suited for this timeless message of faith and friendship. Listening to her sing ‘What A Friend We Have In Jesus’ is a truly uplifting experience.” -Music Critic
In this article, we’ll explore why this rendition is so special and delve into the history behind the hymn itself. You’ll discover what inspired Franklin to record this song and how she put her own spin on it.
We’ll also look at the impact that “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” has had on people over the years and why it continues to be a favorite among churchgoers and music fans alike.
So whether you’re already a fan of this classic hymn or you’re hearing it for the first time, get ready to be moved by Aretha Franklin’s soulful rendition of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”
Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul
Aretha Louise Franklin was an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. She is known all over the world as the “Queen of Soul” for her contributions to popular music in the twentieth century.
Born on March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee, Aretha had a difficult childhood. Her parents split when she was just six years old, leaving her mother to raise four children alone. By the time she was 10, she had already started singing in her father’s church in Detroit, Michigan.
Her Early Life and Musical Career
Aretha developed her musical talent at a young age, playing piano and singing gospel music in her father’s Baptist church. In fact, it was her father who first recognized her potential and helped launch her career by introducing her to various record labels and agents in New York City.
Aretha released her first album, “Songs of Faith,” at the age of 14. However, it wasn’t until later in her career that she achieved widespread commercial success with hits like “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” and “Natural Woman.”
In total, Aretha recorded more than 40 studio albums during her career and won 18 Grammy Awards. She became one of the best-selling female artists of all time, selling over 75 million records worldwide.
The Influence of Gospel Music on Her Style
Gospel music played a significant role in shaping Aretha’s style and sound. As a child, she sang in front of some of the most legendary figures in the history of gospel music, including Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward.
Her experience singing in church shaped her powerful and emotional vocal delivery, which has been widely admired for its ability to evoke deep emotions in listeners. According to Rolling Stone, Aretha’s singing “embodied the best of American music: the tension between gospel and R&B, pride and pain, roots and expansion.”
Her Impact on the Civil Rights Movement
In addition to her contributions to music, Aretha played an important role in the civil rights movement during the 1960s. She was a close friend of Martin Luther King Jr. and performed at several of his events, including the March on Washington in 1963.
One of her most famous performances from this era was her rendition of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” at King’s funeral in 1968. The song is a traditional Christian hymn with lyrics that offer comfort to those who are mourning.
“When she sang ‘what a friend we have in Jesus’ at Dr. King’s funeral, it brought people together,” says Reverend Al Sharpton, who knew Franklin personally. “It healed them in a way.”
Aretha’s performance helped unite mourners at one of the darkest moments of the civil rights movement. Her voice served as a beacon of light, inspiring hope and reminding people that they were not alone in their grief.
Aretha Franklin was much more than just a talented musician. She was a trailblazer, using her art to bring people together and inspire positive change. Her legacy will live on forever through her music and the impact she had on American culture and society.
The Significance of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”
“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” is a timeless hymn that has continued to be relevant over the years. The song, written by Joseph Scriven in 1855, was inspired by his personal experiences and the hardships he had gone through. The song has been covered numerous times by different artists across various genres since then.
One of the most famous covers of this hymn was done by the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Through her unique interpretation, she breathed new life into the classic hymn, connecting with people from all walks of life in a deep and spiritual way. Her version remains one of the most iconic renditions of the song ever recorded.
This article delves into the history and meaning of the hymn, Aretha Franklin’s interpretation of it, and the role of gospel music in African American culture.
The History and Meaning of the Hymn
Joseph Scriven wrote “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” in 1855. He composed the lyrics after he experienced many personal tragedies, including the loss of both his mother and his fiancee. Scriven himself met with misfortunes throughout his life. Illness, poverty, and other losses made him doubt God’s presence in his life. As he struggled to come to terms with what he had endured, he ultimately found solace in his faith and began writing poetry and hymns as an expression of his devotion.
Scriven based “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” on a poetic letter he sent to his mother in Ireland while living in Canada. The poem was first published anonymously in a religious magazine in New York City in September 1868, eight years after Scriven died. Charles Converse set the poem to music in 1868.
The hymn has two main themes throughout its verses. Firstly, it speaks of the friendship that believers can have with Jesus Christ. Each verse reminds the listener that they have a loving and caring friend who is always there for them. Secondly, the song encourages listeners to bring their worries, pain, and troubles to Jesus through prayer.
Aretha Franklin’s Interpretation of the Hymn
Aretha Franklin recorded “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” in 1972 as part of her live gospel album, Amazing Grace. This experience marked a turning point in Aretha’s career as an artist, where she returned to her roots in gospel music, which was a significant influence in her life.
Franklin sang the hymn from a more personal perspective, communicating directly with God, thereby making the song about her own connection with her faith. Her vocal performance was soulful yet intimate and emotional, and deeply moving, showing her complete mastery over the genre of gospel music. She is known to many as one of the greatest practitioners of the spiritual art form ever.
In an interview with NPR News back in 2001, Franklin commented on her interpretation of religious songs like “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” saying: “I think everyone needs something different spiritually, and I think people should be allowed to connect the way they want to.” That being said, she had no qualms about singing this particular song because she believed it could uplift people in times of need or hardship.
The Role of Gospel Music in African American Culture
Gospel music has played a significant role in African American culture since the late 19th century. For generations, black artists used spirituals, hymns, and other forms of gospel music to communicate both their despair and their hopes. Historically, gospel music was not only a form of entertainment but also served as a way to cope with the trauma that many black Americans had endured throughout history.
Gospel music is unique in that it connects people on a spiritual level. The genre focuses on the themes of faith, salvation, hope, love, and joy, and has helped millions of people around the world connect with God. Gospel music’s roots are deep in African American culture and its contributions have been significant all over the world.
“Gospel music can grieve you, lift your spirit up at times when the pressures of life weigh down on your mind,” wrote historian James A Patterson in his book “Negro Ministry”
The significance of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” goes beyond just one song. It is an example of how religion and music can work together to provide comfort for those going through trying times. This timeless hymn serves as a reminder of the love, grace, and mercy that believers share with Christ, something so powerful that even renowned musicians like Aretha Franklin felt moved by its message.
Aretha Franklin’s Unique Take on the Classic Hymn
Aretha Franklin, known as the “Queen of Soul,” was a legendary singer and songwriter who left an indelible mark on music history. One of her most iconic renditions is “What A Friend We Have In Jesus,” a classic Christian hymn that she transformed into a gospel masterpiece.
Franklin’s version of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” stands out for its powerful vocals, soulful instrumentation, and improvisational flourishes. Her unique interpretation remains a testament to her immense talent and artistic vision.
The Evolution of Gospel Music in Aretha Franklin’s Career
Franklin grew up in a family steeped in gospel tradition, with her father serving as a prominent pastor and activist. She began singing in the church choir at a young age and soon established herself as a gifted vocalist.
In the 1960s, she made the jump from gospel to secular music and became one of the top R&B performers of the era. However, she never lost touch with her roots and continued to incorporate gospel influences into her music throughout her career.
In many ways, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” encapsulates this evolution, moving from a traditional hymn to a full-blown gospel track infused with funk, soul, and blues elements.
The Use of Instruments and Arrangement in Her Version
One key aspect of Franklin’s take on the song is the arresting instrumental backing provided by her band, which includes a driving bass line, punchy horns, and soaring organ riffs. These elements help turn the tune into a joyful celebration of faith rather than a somber reflection on death.
Additionally, the arrangement features a call-and-response structure between Franklin and a choir, adding to the sense of communal spirit that underlies gospel music. The use of hand clapping and foot stomping further brings the performance to life.
Together, these elements create a rich tapestry of sound that elevates the song to even greater heights and underscores Franklin’s mastery as both a singer and arranger.
The Importance of Improvisation in Gospel Music
An essential aspect of any great gospel performance is improvisation – the ability to respond to the moment and create something new on the spot. Franklin was a master at this form of musical expression, infusing her performances with spontaneous vocal flourishes and unexpected shifts in dynamics and tempo.
“You can tell when Aretha is having a good time,” says Cliff White, author of “Aretha Franklin: Queen of Soul.” “She starts riffing and playing games with you, and it becomes an event.”
This element of unpredictability makes each of her performances unique and deeply personal, inviting listeners into an intimate and profound experience of faith. It speaks to the transformative power of music and its ability to connect us to something larger than ourselves.
All told, Aretha Franklin’s version of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” embodies the very essence of gospel music – a fusion of heart, soul, tradition, and innovation that continues to inspire and uplift audiences today.
The Cultural Impact of Aretha Franklin’s Gospel Music
Aretha Franklin was a musical icon whose talent and voice transcended generations. Known as the “Queen of Soul,” she married gospel with soul to create music that touched people’s souls. One of her most famous gospel songs is “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”
“We knew we were working with greatness, even then. It just shines through in everything she does.” – Carole King, Songwriter
Aretha Franklin’s music has had a significant impact on American culture, particularly in the African American community. Her ability to sing from the depths of her heart touched the hearts of many, which contributed not only to the popularity of her music but also to its cultural impact.
The Role of Gospel Music in the Civil Rights Movement
Gospel music played a crucial role in the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s. The songs served as a way to uplift spirits, ease tensions, and strengthen the resolve of those fighting for justice. Aretha Franklin used her music to support the movement by releasing powerful songs like “Respect” and “Young, Gifted, and Black.” However, it was her rendition of “Precious Lord” performed at Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral that solidified her place as an indispensable artist who could bring people together during one of America’s most divisive eras.
“Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll—the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope.” – President Barack Obama
Aretha Franklin’s music became synonymous with the fight for civil rights. It gave voice to the people and helped fuel their determination to overcome racial injustice. Her gospel music inspired a generation, bringing hope to those who had none.
The Influence of Gospel Music on Popular Music
Gospel music has been a significant influence on many genres of popular music and continues to inspire artists today. The blending of gospel and soul was Aretha Franklin’s speciality, and her success helped bring Gospel music into the mainstream. While she is most well-known for her soul hits, her early career began singing pure gospel with her father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin, in his Detroit church.
“Aretha’s roots are purely gospel-based, but it’s been threaded so tightly within an R&B sensibility that you can’t really separate the two.” – Alicia Keys
Aretha Franklin expanded the scope of Gospel music by providing a new sound that appealed to both traditional Gospel listeners and fans of secular music. Her unique blend of styles created a new genre of music that had widespread appeal and paved the way for future artists looking to connect different genres together.
The Representation of African American Culture in Gospel Music
Gospel music is essential to the African American experience, representing their history, culture, and faith. At its core, gospel celebrates the survival of African Americans during slavery and segregation and the strength of communities that came together through their shared experiences. Aretha Franklin’s music embodied this celebration of community, uplifting generations of African Americans.
“Her voice and spirit will remain a centerpiece of what makes America great and also remind us how fragile yet decidedly human dignity truly is.” – Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP.
Franklin’s music was more than just entertainment; it gave people something powerful—a connection to their past, present, and future. It provided a feeling of belonging, reminding them where they came from and where they could go. Her music not only spoke to African Americans but also brought people of all races together through their common emotions, struggles, and triumphs.
Aretha Franklin’s gospel music will be remembered for generations to come, touching the hearts and souls of those who listen to it. Given Aretha’s singing talent and her ability to capture a song’s essence, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” serves to remind us of the impact one woman can have on a culture as well as reshape how we view grief and connectedness in our own lives.
Why Aretha Franklin’s “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” Continues to Inspire
Aretha Franklin’s rendition of the traditional hymn, “What A Friend We Have in Jesus,” has become one of her most beloved gospel songs. The track has resonated with listeners since its release in 1972 and continues to inspire people today. This article explores why the song is so enduringly popular.
The Timeless Message of the Hymn
The message of “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” is simple but profound: no matter what life throws our way, we have a friend in Jesus who will always be there for us. The lyrics remind us that we can bring our troubles to Him and find comfort in His love and support. This message is timeless and universal, which is why the hymn has been played at countless funerals, weddings, and other special events throughout the years.
In an interview with Billboard Magazine, producer Jerry Wexler spoke to the appeal of this type of music, saying: “Spirituals reach out to everyone because they’re talking about human pain and suffering and how to deal with it.”
The Power of Aretha Franklin’s Voice and Interpretation
While the lyrics of the hymn are powerful on their own, it is Franklin’s voice that truly brings them to life. Her soulful interpretation of the song elevates it from a standard hymn to a potent emotional experience for listeners. Throughout her career, Franklin was known for infusing every song she sang with passion and emotion, and “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” is no exception.
In his review of Franklin’s live performance of the song at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote: “Ms. Franklin’s vocal version of ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ rises from a hymn to an ecstatic testimony.”
The Resonance of Gospel Music in Contemporary Culture
Gospel music has had a major impact on contemporary popular culture, and “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” is just one example of its enduring influence. Many modern musicians have been influenced by gospel music, particularly the soulful sounds that were popularized in the 1960s and ’70s.
In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, R&B singer Raphael Saadiq spoke about his love for gospel music, saying: “I think it’s some of the best music ever made. The soulfulness of it, the sermonizing… I just connect with it.” He went on to cite Aretha Franklin as one of his biggest influences.
“What A Friend We Have in Jesus” by Aretha Franklin remains a beloved song over four decades after its release. Its timeless message, Franklin’s powerful voice and interpretation, and the continued influence of gospel music in mainstream culture all contribute to its ongoing appeal. This track serves as a testament to Franklin’s immense talent and the enduring legacy of gospel music.