Aretha Franklin's 'Respect' Has a Hidden History That Makes It Even More Powerful

Aretha Franklin was known for her catalog of hits, but none is more well known than her women's anthem, "Respect."

What many fans might not know about the catchy tune, though, is that it was actually written and originally sung by a man — Otis Redding.

The song's original lyrics focused on a man coming home to his housewife, a far cry from the power track Franklin eventually made the tune.

"Hey little girl, you're so sweet, little honey / And I'm about to, just give you all of my money / And all I'm asking, hey / A little respect when I come home," Redding's lyrics read.

Two years later, in 1967, Franklin, then 25, reimagined the tune, creating the powerful statement we know today.

Franklin's version of the song features the singer demanding respect from a man, noting that she knows her worth and isn't afraid to ask for what she wants.

She flipped the lyrics around and added a call-and-response section, featuring her sisters as backup singers. She also added the iconic "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" hook to the song, with her confident delivery inspiring women everywhere to demand respect for themselves, and making sure that no one will ever forget how to spell the word.

The Queen of Soul's take on the track became No. 1 on the R&B and pop charts, winning Franklin the Grammy Awards for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording and Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Female. It was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1987 and named number five on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The song is now cemented in popular culture thanks to appearances in films including Forrest Gump, St. Elmo's Fire, Bridget Jones's Diary and more.

Franklin passed away on Thursday, August 16 from advanced pancreatic cancer.

"In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart," Franklin's family said in a statement to the Associated Press. "We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds."


The statement continued, "We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time."

Photo Credit: Getty / INA