Aretha Franklin

Live Recordings: ‘Mary, Don’t You Weep’ Aretha Franklin (Amazing Grace, Atlantic/Rhino Entertainment, 1972)

Recorded 'Live' at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, Los Angeles in January, 1972. With the Southern California Community Choir.

Personnel: Aretha Franklin - vocals, piano, Chuck Rainey – bass, Cornell Dupree – guitar, Kenneth Lupper – organ, Pancho Morales - percussion, conga, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie – drums, Southern California Community Choir - background vocal

Amazing Grace won the 1972 Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance and is the biggest selling pure Gospel album in history.  

Oh Oh Mary
Oh Oh Mary

Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn.
Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn. 
Didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned? 
Oh, Mary, don't you weep.  

I went to this recording session. It was announced on the soul station in LA on Friday nite that Aretha was recording live that weekend & people were welcome to come, so I scraped together my dimes for gas & high-tailed it down there Saturday in my white Pontiac Bonneville which got 8 miles to the gallon. To add to the drama, Mick Jagger was up in the front row clapping & yelling. Aretha’s father ran the show & the title says it. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. 2 sessions — Saturday & Sunday. Seems like a dream now. What a moment in time. When Aretha was in her prime she could make you hallucinate. When she ran a scale it was like a huge firetruck drove by with all the sirens blasting. W-O-W...I remember her father saying...Aretha is a “stone singer”.  Well, yes. Testify. I was there & must say I agree 1000%.
— Comment below the YouTube video (Esquibelle)

Well, Satan got mad and he knows I'm glad. 
Missed that soul that he thought he had.
Now, didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned? 
Oh, Mary, don't you weep.

Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn.
Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn. 
Didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned? 
Oh, Mary, don't you weep. 

I went to the second session, that Saturday evening and you’re right, seems like a dream now. When Aretha was leaving the church, so many people shook her hand. She was so gentle and a little timid back then.
— Comment below the YouTube Video (Harold Walker)

Well, one of these nights around twelve o'clock
This old town's gonna really rock
Didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned? 

Oh, Mary, don't you weep.

What I appreciate most about music of that decade is the very fact that instruments and voices were pure. No pitch bender, nothing mechanical, no tweaking, nothing artificial..................just pure music.
— Comment below the YouTube video (Monique Purcell)

Cheer up, sisters and don't you cry. 
There'll be good times bye and bye.
Didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned? 
Oh, Mary, don't you weep.

Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn.
Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn. 
Didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned? 
Oh, Mary, don't you weep. 

Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn.
Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn. 

Didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned?

Oh, Mary, don't you weep. 

'(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.

Coda:

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

PJ Harvey 'Silence' (White Chalk, Island Records, 2007)

All those places
Where I recall the memories
That gripped me
And pinned me down

I go to these places
Intending to think
To think of nothing
No anticipate

And somehow expect
You’ll find me there
That by some miracle
You’d be aware

Ordinary, nothing special cars; super-imposed onto a screen and then the repeated close-up onto something that you can't see. Despite my default setting of teenage kicks, I keep wanting to write about 'quiet' (in hip-hop; in other music).

I love the way they have layered that soft drum-beat, sibilant over the rest of the sounds here: 'I freed myself from my family/I freed myself from work/I freed myself
I freed myself/And remained alone.'

This drumming, ever-present but disappearing makes me think of this beautiful song that we all know where the sweet confidence of the vocals is supported by a similarly reticent, but central syncopated drum-beat. 

(You could write an entire essay on the importance of the backing vocals in this song; 'forever and ever ... ' the way the sheer certainty of the delivery and clarity of sound become a driving force).   

PJ Harvey: all morning I tried to find a live recording, where her expressive vocals, her expression of longing was offered a counter-point by found noise, people speaking, the sound of glass; what the sound engineers used to call atmosphere ('atmos') and then I discovered this (again).