Aretha Franklin’s ‘Amazing Grace’

David Goodson | 11/15/2018, 2:27 p.m.
What if this story had come out when it was supposed to? Peep a few scenarios of things that might ...
Aretha Franklin Official White House Photo by Pete Souz

What if this story had come out when it was supposed to? Peep a few scenarios of things that might have been affected. The silver and black color scheme associated with the most thuggish franchise in professional sports, the Oakland Raiders, and later the self-proclaimed world’s most dangerous group, N.W.A., might have had an additional group to have aspirations of emulating. Adorned in those colors, the Southern California Community Choir employed a unified, swag-filled two-step, from the back of the house to their section of the stage. Looking good and sounding better.

What about the two young sisters becoming so enraptured by music they were driven to hit a dance maneuver eerily similar to the C-Walk. So now we see the move used to celebrate the spirit of life, not the destruction of one, even the not so subtle rendering of the savior looking like someone with your lineage.

At its best, art is not just an expression of creativity. It’s also a reflection of the strength, power, struggle and pain of a people. That’s the beauty of “Amazing Grace.” If we look deeper than the nostalgia and the aesthetics, we get to connect to a previous generation. If we remain on the surface, however, we get Aretha Franklin, the best ever arguably at her best ever! Forty-six years after the initial filming, we get to experience the same chills of the visual companion to the monumental recording, originally recorded and filmed during a church service Jan. 13 and Jan. 14, 1972, at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. As a stand-alone project, the two times platinum album won Franklin a Grammy award in 1973 and is one of the, if not the, highest selling project in her catalog. History has a chance to repeat itself after the film was finally unearthed at the 2018 DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary film festival.

The arduous task of finally getting this project out of the vaults and ready for public consumption was a consummate team effort. Tirrell D. Whittley, owner/CEO of Liquid Soul Media, a marketing agency specializing in sports and entertainment, serves as one of the producers of the film, and when discussing the project, you can hear the relief and pride of the commutative effort.

Whittley said, “It’s been an interesting road. It hasn’t always been easy. I’ve come up on the rough side of the mountain a few times. But God made a way and we got the film to see the light of day.”

Although the film is a professional milestone, it also provides personal satisfaction. Whittley said, “I grew up with this album. It played around my house on Saturday mornings and I knew all the songs. But seeing this film, I realized we were just along for the ride. Aretha went to another level of worship in the recording of the album. Case in point, there was a moment in the album that I always wondered about. There’s a moment in the song ‘Amazing Grace’ that the piano drops out. When it resumes you hear that they’re in the wrong key.”

He continued with the answer to the mystery, “I now know. The Rev. James Cleveland was so emotional that he left the piano, went to the choirs stand and cried. Alexander Hamilton [choir director] rushed over to pick up the song, but he picked it up in the wrong key. It’s those little nuances that really change the dynamic and understanding of how heavy the spirit was in the recording of that album. That room was fully encapsulated in worship.”

Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.