'(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone’/’Ain't No Way’ single, Aretha Franklin (Lady Soul, Atlantic Records, 1968)

Recorded on December 16 and 17, 1967
Aretha Franklin - lead vocals; Jimmy Johnson and Bobby Womack - guitars; Spooner Oldham - electric piano; Tommy Cogbill - bass; Roger Hawkins - drums; Melvin Lastie, Joe Newman, Bernie Glow - trumpets; Tony Studd - bass trombone; King Curtis, Seldon Powell, Frank Wess - tenor saxophones; Haywood Henry - baritone saxophone; The Sweet Inspirations, Carolyn & Erma Franklin - background vocals; horn arrangement: Arif Mardin

Carried only by her voice, the rising sound of it, the music – the composition, construction of it, those horn and drum sounds; ‘Speak your name/And I’ll feel a thrill …’

I’ve listened to this song so many, so many times that it comes up as the first track to be heard on Youtube – it’s the best music for me, best going out walking the streets music for me, the best pick you up music I can think of, well, one of the best. ‘Hear me now (Hear me) … Hear me now.’

So perfect: three minutes or less. Some parts are linear, offering up emphasis and bombast, to stop abruptly, as if adding salt.           

Since you've been gone, baby
(Why'd you do it, why'd you have to do it)
Since you've been gone
(Why'd you do it, why'd you have to do it)

Baby baby, sweet baby
I didn't mean to run you away
It was pride on my lips
But not in my heart
To say the things that made you stray
But ah, babe
Hear me now (hear me)

Now I’m not claiming any special superhuman predictive power here, but I had always listened to these songs together and have only just discovered they were released together as a single. ‘Ain’t No Way’ was written by Aretha’s older sister, Carolyn, who also features here as a backing vocalist.

One of my favourite imaginative flights that I like to indulge in is to imagine that the various musical parts of these classic songs are human, reflecting human character traits. Thinking then about that horn sound, so sturdy and insistent and how it offers up a magical counterpoint to the other elements including the ‘operatic’ upper range of Cissy Houston, ringing out like a bell. Or consider the character of the drumming in ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’.

And then listen in from around 1’50 for the way everything comes together for the next 20 seconds or so, opening out so sweetly, fanning out in circles in ‘Ain’t No Way’ – one of the most touching and emotionally resonant songs I know.


Live performance - 'Since You've Been Gone' (Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 1968)