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Amazing Grace: Aretha Franklin

July 24, 2019

For two nights in January 1972, Aretha Franklin joined voices with the Southern California Community Choir at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. The recording event was filmed and after thirty-plus years of legal wrangling, it is finally available to wow us all.

”Let's start with the church. As you know, it's my background, it's a natural setting for me and it's definitely my roots.”
—Aretha Franklin


Amazing Grace, the Film

The return to a full gospel recording was a sort of homecoming for Miss Franklin, who was raised singing and touring beside her father, Rev. C.J. Franklin. Joining her for the two-night Amazing Grace session was a lifelong friend, Rev. James Cleveland.

Luckily the entire session was filmed. Director Sydney Pollack had the good sense to simply get out of the way. The New Temple church was left raw and real. The baptismal font is covered by handmade curtains, the obligatory “Jesus walking through the living waters” painting is amateurish to say the least, and the 1970s undulating blue carpet, blue walls and messy “stage area” all left cluttered and refreshingly real.

This lack of polish allows the viewer to be fully captivated by the heavenly voice of Aretha Franklin. No special effects, no vocal histrionics, no showing off in the house of the Lord. The phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime talent Aretha Franklin showcases her God-given gift. Aretha stays calm and focused, often with her hands held simply behind her back. Her face glistens with perspiration. Her focus is on the music, nothing else. Her voice fills the sanctuary with authentic reverence. Watch and be wowed.

Amazing Grace: The Complete Recordings

Recorded before a live audience at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Although just 14 tracks were released on the orginal album, this recording includes 29 tracks. So if you think you’ve heard the session before, you are about to be doubly rewarded for your patience. 

33 1/3 Series: Amazing Grace

This entry in the series provides background information about the monumental two-day recording session. Details about the musicians, the house, the scheduling, the $10 tickets are all included in this behind the scenes account of the 1972 recording.


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