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  • Writer's pictureMatilda Butler

Give Some R-E-S-P-E-C-T to This Talented Amazing CAN DO Woman

Updated: Apr 20, 2022


Women’s History Month is almost over for 2022. So far we have featured three women:

For our final Women’s History Month blog of 2022, we’ve chosen to give

R-E-S-P-E-C-T to Aretha Franklin.



Be confident in whatever you choose to do in life. Confidence is key.

A Bit About Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin, as you know, is a highly acclaimed American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Her rich, powerful, complex, soulful voice earned her honors throughout her life. We’ve chosen to let her describe her life and philosophy in her own words.

And as you read about her and listen to her words, you'll see why we found her inspirational message to all of us is to "Be confident in whatever you choose to do in life. Confidence is key." Did she ever say exactly those words? No. And no one can ever be an Aretha Franklin. But we can find inspiration for our own lives through her life.

Aretha’s Backstory

Before we turn to her quotes, let me provide a little information about Aretha — who is known as the "Queen of Soul”. If you mainly know her songs, you may not know much about her background. She had a traumatic and complicated childhood:

  • Her mother left when she was just six;

  • She became a mother at the age of 12 and again at age 14 (her grandmother and sister took care of the children);

  • At her father’s insistence, she sang gospel in his church—New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan;

  • She recorded her first songs in that church—they were released when she was 14 on an album called Songs of Faith.

A Major Influence - Aretha’s father, C.L. Franklin, was a major force in her life. It turns out that he also had a difficult childhood. His grandfather was a slave, his parents were sharecroppers and his father abandoned the family when C.L. was four. His mother remarried a farmer, but CL was determined to lead a different kind of life. By the time he was 18, C.L. was a Baptist circuit preacher and on his way to becoming a well-known preacher and civil rights activist.

At his New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, C.L.’s sermons became known as “black liberation theology.” In one sermon, for example, he said, “We are black, not because we are cursed, for blackness is not a curse. . . . [White people] conditioned you that way because they used this as a means to an end, to give you a feeling of inferiority.”

In the early 1960s, C.L. became a close friend of Martin Luther King Jr.; led the Detroit Civil Rights March in 1963 with MLK by his side; and was on the executive committee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The civil rights movement and many of the key individuals in it were powerful influences on Aretha. This period produced some of the music she sang and even how she sang the songs.

Another Influence—Jerry Wexler, Record Producer at Atlantic Records

Wexler, a co-owner of Atlantic Records, had watched Aretha’s career at Columbia Records. In his mind, it was a disaster. He seemed to know that Columbia was trying to mould her into a singer with a style that was not true to her background and her voice. He wanted the real Aretha to sing.

He wrote, “Her eyes are incredible, luminous eyes covering inexplicable pain. Her depressions could be as deep as the dark sea. I don’t pretend to know the sources of her anguish, but anguish surrounds Aretha as surely as the glory of her musical aura.”

I’ll say more about Wexler below. For now, let’s look at Aretha’s life in her own words:

It was Church and Gospels at the Beginning

  • “I was in my dad's church, his Baptist church, and I think the first song I ever performed was 'Jesus Be a Fence Around Me.’”

  • “I didn't really want to sing at first, but my dad insisted that I do.”

A Small Step from Church and Gospels to Civil Rights Work

When Aretha was 16, and at her father’s urging, she joined Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on tour, singing gospel at civil rights rallies across the country. And less than 10 years later, she sang “Precious Lord, Take my Hand” at Dr. King’s funeral.

The Importance of Music — Uplifting, Encouraging, Strengthening

  • “Music does a lot of things for a lot of people. It's transporting, for sure. It can take you right back, years back, to the very moment certain things happened in your life. It's uplifting, it's encouraging, it's strengthening.”

Be True. Be Confident.

  • “Be your own artist, and always be confident in what you're doing. If you're not going to be confident, you might as well not be doing it.”

  • “Most of what I wear, I select myself. You can't please everybody, and as long as I'm comfortable with what I wear, I think that's what's important.”

  • “It's easy for a singer to sometimes pick up on another singer's sound, but that's just copying.”

  • “Be true to yourself. You can learn from others, but don’t stop at copying.”


  • “Women absolutely deserve respect.”

  • “We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It's our basic human right.”

  • “I think it would be a far greater world if people were kinder and more respectful to each other.”

  • “Everybody wants respect. In their own way, three-year-olds would like respect, and acknowledgment, in their terms.”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T 1967 Recording of Aretha Franklin Performing

A Note About the Lyrics to R-E-S-P-E-C-T

One of Aretha’s most famous songs is R-E-S-P-E-C-T, with original lyrics by Otis Redding. Once the version song by Aretha became well-known, Redding said, “This girl, a good friend of mine, took my song away from me.” In truth, she turned the song inside out from its original lyrics about a man expecting obedience from a woman to an anthem about what a woman wants and should have from a man.

Original Otis Redding Lyrics BEFORE Aretha's Version (In Case You Have Never Heard Them) -- Shown in PURPLE Below

Aretha Franklin’s Version of R-E-S-P-E-C-T (I think you’ll like it so much better!)

-- Shown in Red Below

What you want, honey, you got it

And what you need, baby, you got it

All I'm askin' is give me a little respect when I come home

Ooh, yeah

Hey, hey, hey

Yeah, now

Ooh, yeah

What you want, baby, I got it

What you need, do you know I got it?

All I'm askin' is for a little respect when you get home

(Just a little bit) hey, baby

(Just a little bit) when you get home

(Just a little bit) mister

(Just a little bit)

You can do me wrong, honey, if you wanna

But only do me wrong, honey, while I'm gone

All I'm askin' is give it, give it when I come home

Ooh, yeah

Hey, hey, hey

Yeah, now

I ain't gon' do you wrong while you're gone

Ain't gon' do you wrong 'cause I don't wanna

All I'm askin' is for a little respect when you come home

(Just a little bit) baby

(Just a little bit) when you get home

(Just a little bit) yeah

(Just a little bit)

Hey, little girl, you're sweeter than honey

And I wanna give you all of my money

All I'm askin' is give it when I come home

Yeah, now

Hey, hey, hey

Ooh, yeah, now

I'm about to give you all of my money

And all I'm askin' in return, honey

Is to give me my propers when you get home

yeah, baby

(Just a, just a, just a, just a) when you get home

(Just a little bit) yeah

(Just a little bit)

Hey, little girl, you're so sweeter than honey

And I wanna give you all of my money

But all I want you to do is give it, give it, give it when I come home

Ooh, yeah

Hey, hey, hey


Respect when I want it

Respect when I need it

Respect when I want it

Respect when I need it

Got to, got to have it

We got to have it

Got to, got to have it

Give it to me when I want it

Give it to me when I need it

Give it to me with respect, ah

Give it to me when I want it

Got to, got to give it

Got to, got to give it

You got to give it

You got to give it

We got to give it

Ooh, your kisses, sweeter than honey

And guess what? So is my money

All I want you to do for me, is give it to me when you get home

yeah, baby

(Re, re, re, re) whip it to me

(Respect, just a little bit) when you get home, now

(Just a little bit)


Find out what it means to me


Take care, TCB, oh

A little respect

(Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me)

Whoa, babe

a little respect

I get tired (Just a little bit)

keep on tryin’ (Just a little bit)

you're runnin' out of fools (Just a little bit)

and I ain't lyin’ (Just a little bit)

start when you come home (Just a little bit)

or you might walk in (respect, just a little bit)

and find out I'm gone (Just a little bit)

I gotta have (Just a little bit)

Now, Back to Aretha’s Words:

Looking Back. Looking Forward.

  • “We didn't have music videos. You weren't an overnight sensation. You had to work at it and learn your craft: how to take care of your voice, how to pace your concerts, all that trial and error.”

  • “Music changes, and I'm gonna change right along with it.”

  • “I'm never tired of going to the studio. I enjoy recording and documenting everything and trying new things.”

Reflecting on Life

  • “Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I'm using, to the highest degree possible, the gift that God gave me to use. I'm happy with that.”

  • “It really is an honor if I can be inspirational to a younger singer or person. It means I've done my job.”

A Final Note on Jerry Wexler

I mentioned that there was a bit more about Jerry Wexler that is important to the world of music and to Aretha Franklin. Back in 1949, almost two decades before he signed Aretha with Atlantic Records, Wexler was a reporter as well as editor of Billboard Magazine. When reporting on the pop charts of songs within genres, he was offended by the term of one genre called Race Records. He renamed the category with a term he coined: Rhythm & Blues.

Interested in Aretha Franklin’s Major Awards?

<<<If not, please scroll down to the bottom for Writing Prompts to help you reflect on the role of confidence in your life.>>>

Below is a list of awards won by Aretha and videos of her receiving many of these. If you only have time for one video, scroll to the bottom and watch her sing (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. The song was co-written by Carole King who was being honored at the Kennedy Center as shown in the video. Aretha had pancreatic cancer and had been quite ill. It was a surprise for Carole King that Aretha appeared on stage to both play and sing this wonderful song.

This list, descriptions, and links to the videos was put together by Billboard. Click here for the official link.

  • Feb. 29, 1968 – Won the first Grammy ever awarded for best rhythm & blues solo vocal performance, female for the immortal “Respect.” The classic hit brought Franklin a second award that year: best rhythm & blues recording.

  • March 16, 1971 – Performed her gospel-imbued cover version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” on the first live Grammy telecast. Franklin’s single, newly released at the time, would go on to win best R&B vocal performance, female the following year. (The Temptations presented her with the award.)

  • March 1, 1975 – Won the Grammy for best R&B vocal performance, female for the eighth consecutive year for her cover version of the Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell hit “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.” That eight-year streak is, to this day, the longest Grammy winning streak by any artist in any category. The award was presented by another icon, David Bowie, who Franklin excitedly kissed when she got to the stage. Franklin blurted out, “Wow, this is so good, I could kiss David Bowie.” Realizing some might interpret that as a dis at the gender-bending star, Franklin interrupted herself mid-sentence and said: “I mean that in a beautiful way, because we did.” The fact that she felt compelled to correct such a relatively minor gaffe says a lot about her.

  • Jan. 27, 1986 — Won favorite soul/R&B female vocalist at the American Music Awards for a record fourth time. She stood alone as the category leader until Mariah Carey tied her in 2005. (The current category champ is Rihanna, with seven wins.) Franklin also co-hosted the AMAs in 1976 and 1983. Franklin accepted the 1986 award, one of two she won that night, live via satellite from Detroit. The most striking thing about her 1986 acceptance speech is that she choked up when she accepted the award in memory of her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, who had died 18 months previously.

  • Jan. 21, 1987 – Became first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Keith Richards did the honors. Franklin was coming off a big hit with a cover version of The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Richards had produced and played lead guitar on Franklin’s recording.

  • Feb. 22, 1989 – Became the first female artist to amass 15 Grammys in competition when she won best soul gospel performance, female for One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. Franklin went on to win three more Grammys in competition. Her tally of 18 awards currently puts her in third place among female artists, behind Beyoncé (28) and Alison Krauss (27).

  • Dec. 3, 1994 – Received the Kennedy Center Honors at age 52, making her the youngest recipient to that point. Stevie Wonder, LL Cool J and violinist Midori currently share that distinction (as individual honorees); they were all honored at age 49. Franklin was also one of the first artists primarily known for R&B to receive the honor. (Ray Charles had received the award in 1986.)

  • Feb. 25, 1998 – Filled in for an ailing Luciano Pavarotti to sing “Nessun Dorma” from the Puccini opera Turandot at the 40th annual Grammy Awards. Franklin had sung the piece at the MusiCares person of the year gala two nights earlier, but until Pavarotti’s throat problems caused him to cancel, she had no idea she’d be performing it on TV. Her performance, on a night she also sang “Respect,” doubtless prompted millions of TV viewers to say, “That woman can sing anything.”

  • Feb. 8, 2008 – Honored as MusiCares’ person of the year, having already received a Grammy legend award and a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy. Franklin and Streisand are the only artists to have received all three of these honors. (Quincy Jones received a Grammy legend award, the person of the year honor and a trustees award, which is equivalent to a lifetime achievement award for people whose contributions are primarily behind-the-scenes.)

  • Feb. 14, 2008 – Six days later, while out in California, Franklin receives the rarely given vanguard award at the 39th annual NAACP Image Awards, which was held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The Sounds of Blackness and reigning American Idol champ Jordin Sparks performed her songs in tribute. (Franklin had received their Hall of Fame award in 1997.)

  • Dec. 6, 2015 – Franklin, 73, made President Obama teary-eyed and honoree Carole King ecstatic when she performed her 1967 classic “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (which King co-wrote) at the Kennedy Center Honors.


TODAY'S 5 MINUTE WRITING PROMPT: Write Your Way to Your Own Inspiration

Take just 5 minutes to write about 1 of the following prompts. Don't worry about perfecting your words. Just write freely and open yourself to a feeling of inspiration. Rather than filling in a single word after the prompt, remember a particular instance and write as much detail as you can. Use some of the five senses -- taste, touch, sight, sounds, smell -- to add to your description. That will help you recall your moments of confidence. Or, write about the emotions you felt -- such as joy, happiness, love, optimism, etc.

  1. TIME: I remember feeling confident when...

  2. PLACE: I always feel confident when I am in...

  3. PERSON: I feel more confident after being with...

HINT: You might want to start a journal or composition book with your responses to our prompts--a new set in each of our RosieCentral blogs. It just might become your book of inspiration.




Be confident in whatever you choose to do in life. Confidence is key.

Missed Our Previous Blogs? Check these out!

Rosie the Riveter's Riveting Story -- Find out the connection to Jackie Kennedy's fashion designer and Rosalind Palmer Walter (major funder of public television).

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