For those of you who still haven’t come to terms with the passing of Aretha Franklin, this video may provide some comfort. This astounding concert, which was entirely caught on tape, shows a pared-back Franklin doing what she does best: just focusing on the music. Despite her reputation for diva-ship and for demands, she remained American royalty and one of our greatest treasures — and this concert shows why. Performed in 1971 at the Filmore West in San Francisco, it shows Franklin belting some of her best-known hits along with covers — including the most soulful rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water you will ever hear. Franklin was not yet 30 when this was recorded and every moment of it rings with musical genius.
But it is perhaps the epic rendition of Spirit in the Dark, which just gives and gives, that is the most jaw-dropping. Halfway through she pulls a very special guest out of the audience — Ray Charles. As the crowd recognizes the music icon, they explode while Charles and Franklin, who reportedly only met that day, set the room ablaze. “She turned the thing into church,” Charles was reported to have said later said later. “I mean, she’s on fire.”
You can see the whole concert, over an hour of pure Aretha, here:
The fact that these moments were caught on tape is an incredible gift. Do yourself a favor and give the Queen of Soul a proper send off by cherishing it.