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FROM THE VAULTS: ARETHA FRANKLIN 1970 INTERVIEW
In person interview conducted at Top Of The Pops studio in London, summer 1970


The arrival in Britain of the Queen of Soul was, naturally, a Red Letter day in the 1970 Soul calendar. After all, this was only Aretha's second European jaunt — the first having been over two years ago — in 1968 — when she had literally blown everyone's minds with her spellbinding shows and left a very lasting impression.

It was therefore a great disappointment for everyone when her sellout concerts at the Royal Albert Hall were cancelled only three days before, and, worse still, it looked as though Aretha wasn't going to make it to Europe at all! But, with a tremendous effort on her part, Aretha determined that she wasn't going to disappoint everyone. So naturally it was with great relief that we learned of Aretha's arrival in Europe and eagerly awaited her arrival in London.

She flew into London on Friday, July 24, after knockout appearances at major European venues, including a wildly successful performance at the Antibes Jazz Festival. In view of her recent illness, Aretha sensibly decided to rest and relax for the first part of her week in London and I was lucky to grab just a few minutes of her precious time at the Top of the Pops studio where she performed her new single, "Don't Play That Song", which looks destined to climb right into the British charts!

What immediately struck me about Aretha was the unbelievable physical changes! In fact, she has changed so much that she managed to walk right past me in the studio reception area without me realising! Sporting a truly natural 'natural', she has slimmed down incredibly. The change was so marked that, without wishing to appear rude, I had to tell her so. And Aretha readily admitted it. "I've just had my baby, you know — a boy — and that has certainly helped". Yes, Aretha looks much slimmer and younger now, though she laughed that she "still love my food!" Apart from these physical changes, Aretha appears far more relaxed than ever. She seems much happier and far more communicative than on her previous stay in London and she set the pace for most of the conversation. And, as we were later to see, this newly-found vitality and contentment came through on stage.

I didn't want to dwell for too long on questions about her career — most of the news reqarding Lady Soul gets across to us anyway. Apparently, Aretha has a new album out very soon which will feature her last American hit "Spirit In The Dark", as well as her own versions of such songs as "My Way", "When This Battle Is Over" and "The Thrill Is Gone". She has a number of tracks in the can from her session in late 1969 which produced "Eleanor Rigby", "Son Of A Preacher Man" and "Call Me" — others from her more recent sessions during March. These include "Anyone Who Had A Heart", "You Keep Me Hangin' On" and two songs from sister Carolyn, "Puttin' On" and "Who Kept Me Waitin' On?".

But, back to the lady herself — and how was she enjoying Europe? "It's fine. Everything has been going so well and naturally I am delighted with the way the concerts have gone — it's really made me feel good the way the audiences are reacting and you bet, I'm looking forward to Saturday" (the day of the London concerts).

Whilst Aretha floored everyone with her brilliant performance on TOTP, I had a chance to have a few words with Larue Manns, who is Aretha's personal aide. Larue, incidentally, held the same position with the late Dinah Washington. She readily agreed that Aretha is far more relaxed and happier after a lay off of nearly ten months. During last year she underwent several periods of strain as a result of difficult times in her personal life, and just having had a little baby boy had certainly helped to get Aretha back on her feet again. After all, when you've worked solid for nearly three years earning eleven gold records, the toll is inevitably high.

The time alas went so quickly and soon afterwards I was bidding Aretha a fond farewell and telling her how, like everyone else, I was eagerly awaiting her Saturday concerts.

And before I knew it, Saturday was upon us. Having followed Aretha through the years, I naturally felt obliged to go to both houses at Hammersmith. And on neither occasion was I in the least bit disappointed.

I managed to get just a few words with Aretha before she finally left the theatre — and she confirmed just how much she had enjoyed the concerts. She intends coming back later in the year — October or thereabouts — and she leaves everyone waiting impatiently for her return!

About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.
  
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