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spent the 1960s establishing herself as the Queen of Soul, branching out from her beginnings as a small-time gospel singer and going on to release some of the best soul/R&B albums ever recorded, including I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You in 1967 and Lady Soul in 1968, both of which were certified gold. (The latter came in at No. 4 on our list of the 15 Best Albums of 1968.) Also around this time, Franklin famously popularized Otis Redding’s “Respect,” transforming a basic blues into a timely anthem for the ongoing Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation movements.
By the early 1970s, Franklin was one of the most popular and best-selling female musicians in the world, having already earned several Grammy awards and with multiple albums reaching No. 1 on the R&B charts. In March of 1971, she had a three-night residency at San Francisco’s Fillmore West. On March 5, 1971, she gave the first of three impressive performances, all of which opened with a bubbling “Respect.” Franklin included some of her own songs in the repertoire, including “Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)” and “Spirit in the Dark,” but also tried to appeal to San Francisco’s younger, hippier audience, offering soulful covers of Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and Bread’s “Make It With You.” Her album, Aretha Live at Fillmore West, which included recordings from all three shows, was also certified Gold. Watch Aretha serve this dynamic early performance to a crowd in San Francisco on this date in 1971.