Inspired by the raft of YouTube driven artist threads on the net at the moment, I thought I’d put together one based on my Aretha bookmarks – these range from the odd to the curious to the plain sublime.

The first dates from 1964 – way before Soul superstardom – and is a live take of rather decent quality of Evil Gal Blues taken from her 1964 Tribute To Dinah Washington album, one of the much maligned Columbia/CBS recordings which really aren’t as bad as legend offers up, albeit a little wooden. Given that you can find most of them for around a fiver on endless reissue CDs you could do worse:

From another Columbia album, 1966′s Soul Sister, comes this Shindig performance from the then 23 year old:

It’s Aretha Franklin Day in Detroit in 1968 – and the newly crowned Queen of Soul is performing her now most famous song in front of Martin Luther King.

43 years later she’d sing again for MLK, in front of thousands – and broadcast to millions live worldwide – in October 2011 at the dedication to the MLK Memorial in Washington:

Things surely did go better with coke (with Ray Charles):

No visual on this, but this previously unreleased studio outtake of The Supremes / Holland Dozier Holland tune You Keep Me Hanging On (from 1969) is ace. It’s now on this astounding album, and features the late Duane Allman on geetar.

The two studio albums Aretha recorded with Luther Vandross (and Marcus Miller) producing in the early 1980s offered a career renaissance of sorts and both albums still sound as good as they did in 1982 and 1983. This snippet of studio footage from the period perhaps hints at that. Move towards the end to see a fabulous raw This Is For Real with Luther in the control booth:

Sadly both the Luther albums stiffed sales wise in the US and the career low-points of duets with George Michael (yeah I like it too, but it wasn’t Chain Of Fools) and Freeway of Love beckoned under label pressure to perform.

Periodically the two (Aretha and Luther) would hook up again, and this live take of A House Is Not a Home is just fabulous. It bought a tear…

Finally (almost), this complete 1968 concert (in three parts) is simply mindblowing. Filmed, I guess, for a European TV show, this is Aretha and killer band at their very peak:

The Soul Train line do the Rock Steady to take us out…

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