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Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ Turns 50

50 years ago this week, legendary singer Aretha Franklin shocked the radio waves with “Respect,” a song that would become known worldwide as an anthem for honor and dignity.

The golden anniversary of the “Queen of Soul’s” hit also commemorates a significant milestone in her career, as the song was her first to top the Billboard 100.

“I think that hook line is something we all relate to,” Franklin said of the song. “It’s something we all appreciate and expect.”

Jerry Wexler, producer of many of Franklin’s most popular songs, was also responsible for this hit. Originally written by fellow soul legend Otis Redding two years earlier, Wexler convinced Franklin to record a cover on a hunch that it’d be successful. And he was right.

“Respect” topped the pop chart for another week while spending two months at No. 1 on the R&B side. Over the years, the song would go on to earn spots in the Grammy Hall of Fame and the National Recording Registry, place No. 4 in “Songs of the Century,” and, as of last year, be chosen No. 1 in Detroit’s 100 Greatest Songs.

“I don’t think it’s bold at all,” Franklin said. “I think it’s quite natural that we all want respect — and should get it.”

For decades, the song remained incorporated into Franklin’s concert set lists. On June 10, she will perform the song live at a free outdoor show at Detroit Music Weekend, a new festival in the city’s theater district.

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