Aretha Franklin - a life in movies

Sam Ashurst
Contributor

Aretha Franklin’s incredible music seemed made for the movies – with each song often feeling like a powerful short film in itself.

So it’s probably not surprising that Franklin’s songs featured on an amazing 223 soundtracks – often stealing the scene they appeared on.

To mark the singer’s sad passing, we’ve gathered some of our favourite musical movie moments.

Black Rodeo (1972)

This powerful film documented the first all African-American rodeo in Harlem, New York City featured Franklin’s iconic ‘Respect’ on the soundtrack.

The documentary shows people attending the rodeo and ending up awed to find African-American men and women actively involved in skills like bronc-riding, calf roping and brahma bull riding.

The film featured appearances by Woody Strode and Muhammad Ali, and Franklin’s musical contribution was so significant they put her name on the poster.

The Blues Brothers (1980) – ‘Think’

Franklin didn’t just turned up on soundtracks, she occasionally showed up in movies, with her performance of ‘Think’ one of the absolute highlights of the brilliant Blues Brothers.

The scene’s a delightful set-piece, which combines character work with a genuinely thrilling performance.

It speaks to Franklin’s longevity that she was asked back for the sequel, eighteen years later.

Goodfellas (1990)

We only hear a snippet of ‘Baby I Love You’ in Goodfellas, a film that has plenty of memorable songs jostling for competition in the memory, but Franklin’s song sticks.

That’s possibly because it’s used as the lead-in for one of the most intense scenes, the moment where Joe Pesci shoots Spider.

It wouldn’t be the last time Scorsese would use Franklin, with ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’ popping up in Cape Fear – to similarly memorable effect.

The Zen of Bennett (2012)

Franklin must have been one of the first names on the list for this unique documentary, which follows Tony Bennett as he teams up with a wide variety of artists for his latest covers album – which key performances captured on camera, including the one above, Franklin’s stirring rendition of ‘How Do You Keep The Music Playing?’

Muscle Shoals (2013)

This documentary about Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, features a pretty powerful contribution from Aretha, who recorded at the studios to fairly impressive effect.

You can watch the anecdote above, but brace yourself to be overwhelmed by the sheer coolness of it.

Moonlight (2016)

If ever there was an artist made to soundtrack the juxtaposition of melancholy sadness and brave hope at the heart of Moonlight, it’s Aretha Franklin. And the use of ‘One Step Ahead’ in a key diner scene (which we won’t go into; spoilers) is both moving, and thrilling.

If you haven’t caught Moonlight yet, we can’t think of many better ways to pay tribute to Franklin via the magic of the movies than to watch it tonight.


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