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By Heather Lehr Wagner

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Later, he would work with Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Dire Straits, and Willie Nelson. 37 38 Aretha Franklin Aretha Franklin and her producer Jerry Wexler receive their gold records for their hit single “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)” in New York City, in 1967. Theirs would prove to be a very fruitful collaboration. Jazz Singer Wexler was very familiar with Aretha Franklin. He had been impressed by the power and emotion of her early gospel recording “Precious Lord,” but was confused by Columbia’s decision to package her as a performer of standards.

On February 14, 1967, Valentine’s Day, the group recorded the song that would become one of her signature numbers. The song would become not only an anthem for the singer herself, but also for many women and for all those demanding to be taken seriously. It spoke to the emotions of the civil rights movement. In many ways, it was the perfect song for its era. Franklin had performed it earlier, while on tour, and had a clear sense of the rhythm and piano arrangements, which gave it a feel that was quite different from the version Otis Redding had initially recorded.

In 1963, Franklin was devastated when Dinah Washington, a singer who had been one of her idols, died of an accidental overdose. She was asked to record a tribute album, featuring 10 songs that Washington had made famous. The album, titled Unforgettable and released in 1964, would prove to be one of Franklin’s most artistically successful efforts for Columbia. But the question remains: Why was someone as immensely talented as Aretha Franklin not an immediate success? In part, Franklin’s career was limited by the imaginations of music executives at the time.

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