The latest edition of the I Heart...gig series pays homage to the 'Queen of Soul' Aretha Franklin.
The I Heart series is ran by Dublin musician John Byrne and regularly features many of Ireland's top musicians such as Glen Hansard, Christy Dignam, Bell X1 and Wyvern Lingo, as well as a smoking house band consisting of Lir friontman Dave McGuinness, Duncan Maitland the man behind Picturehouse's biggest hits such as Heavenly Day and Sunburst and a trio of musicians from Dublin based agro-soul outfit Barq.
The I Heart series has paid homage to the likes of Jeff Buckley, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac and Nick Drake in the past but now it's the turn of the Queen of Soul.
The I Heart band will be joined in Whelan's on March 24th by some of Ireland's finest female voices including Jess Kav (The Waterboys) Wyvern Lingo, Amy Kelly and a few surprise guests for a feast of soul
Tickets priced €16.50 on sale now. All proceeds from the event going to Arc Cancer Support Centres.
We spoke to the I Heart band about why they heart Aretha Franklin.
I started off in the nineties singing into a hairbrush in-front of a mirror. Which may be the singer equivalent of noodling away with a guitar, or a look into my budding narcissism. But I felt alive listening to music and it was a sensation incomparable to anything in my life, as a ten year old. Aretha was introduced to me by my mother.
I heard the powerhouse vocals and I was immediately in awe and focused on imitating her. I wanted to know how to growl like her, how to belt like her and how to really mean a lyric. You hear Aretha’s rage, pain, love and strength when she sings and “Think” is one of those songs that cries for respect, if not demands it.
She cries freedom in notes only dogs can hear and only the best can sing (there’s that narcissism again) but I assure you, I have feared that note for years. Aretha puts the fear of god into the artists who imitate her. I love her so much.
Aretha Franklin where to start well first time I heard /layed eyes on her was The Blues Bros I was 10 what a movie & introduction to soul R&B, Aretha, James Brown, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, John Lee hooker, but Aretha singing "Think" in the cafe blew me away over the years listening to her albums is a joy.
My Favourite Song is from Young gifted & black "All the Kings Horses". Her Vocal is Immense just gets me every time Aretha (The Queen of Soul) No question about it!
The first time I heard Aretha Franklin sing, I had no idea who she was. Watching as an 8/9 year old, I had presumed "Mrs. Murphy" was just another character in the Blues Brothers film, but hearing the first few bars of "Think" immediately did away with that presumption. What a voice, what a performance!
Looking at the song now I can say that as well as Aretha's incredible ability some of the things I love about it are the constant energy lifts provided by the ascending key changes, the relentlessness of the rhythm section parts, the sneaky sax lines that help transition those key changes so smoothly.....the list goes on.
But first impressions last, and my feelings when hearing "Think" kick into gear haven't changed much since the first time I heard it, only now I don't have to ask - "Who's that singing?!"
I'm excited to have been asked to take part in the I Heart Aretha night at Whelan's, paying tribute to such an incredible vocalist, icon and activist. I'm a fan of most of Aretha's music - especially the big classics.
I'm doing a couple of songs on the night - and luck enough to be doing Dr Feelgood - a sassy, sexy song written by Aretha herself (Check out the incredible live version from Filmore West in the early '70s. Her effortless vocals and emotive tone are two things I aspire to as a singer!
"Her covers of the tunes "You make me feel like a natural woman" and "I say a little prayer" are my favourites. There is only one person that comes to mind when you think of those songs.
Also, as a sax player, I love her version of "Respect" featuring a solo from the great "King" Curtis Ousley."
My first memory of listening to Aretha was on Night Train, a late night RTÉ radio show from years back that my parents would always have on. It specialised in playing Motown, soul, jazz and blues. Nat King Cole more than anyone but most importantly, Aretha.
That was the first time I heard Respect. I distinctly remember the stabs at the end “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me” giving me goosebumps. Don’t think I’ve ever heard such sass naturally being delivered in music ever since! No surprise to find that section was exclusive to the Aretha version and didn’t appear in Otis Redding’s original.
Many years later as a learning bass player I came across my favourite Aretha tune, Rock Steady. Phat groove and top bassline from a rhythm section comprised of no less than Bernard Purdie and Chuck Rainey!
Many a gig have I enjoyed ripping out that line, very much looking forward to playing it again. It’ll be an honour for us to try do the queen’s music justice and for such a great cause.
Back in the late 90's I was listening to Mos Def's 'Black on Both Sides' album on repeat. One of my favourite tracks off the album is 'Ms. Fat Booty', the melancholic vocal sample always got me.
Fast forward a decade or so and I came across the song responsible for that haunted melody: One Step Ahead by a young Aretha Franklin, a torch song with an enchanting vocal and subtle instrumentation that still has personality.
The dampened electric guitar work is sublime (Mos Def made a feature of this in his track too). Vocally, there's a real wide-eyed, youthful mixture of hope and regret in her delivery.
I can easily say that Aretha Franklin is one of my earliest musical influences. From a young age, I've always been fascinated by her vocal flexibility and her ability to sing a multitude of notes over a single word or syllable.
In a song like 'Chain of Fools' which is essentially constructed around one chord, she manages to fill the song with so much drama and emotion using just the vocal melody and of course her diva-esque conviction.
Aretha used her real life experiences to channel a certain energy into her performances, giving them something special and real. Aside from her incredible vocal talent, it's probably this skill of hers that I find the most inspiring.