Aretha’s Amazing Grace

Just in time for Christmas and a preview of what promises to be the most talked about documentary of 2019. #arethafranklin #queenofsoul #gospel #amazinggrace

After the passing of Aretha Franklin back in August of this year, I had planned on dedicating my annual religious music program on selections from her Atlantic Records double album, Amazing Grace from 1972, which saw an expanded released in 1999.

Sydney Pollack, an actor and director who was a few years away from winning Best Director and Best Producer Oscars for Out of Africa, filmed Aretha, the Reverend James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir over the two days of recording. It was shelved for decades due to audio synching problems, and almost shown this decade by Alan Elliott, a music producer who had worked with many Atlantic Records artists, including Phil Collins, En Vogue and Debbie Gibson, among many others.

Trailer for the long-awaited Amazing Grace documentary film. Courtesy of Alan Elliott and Neon Films.

Franklin herself was the reason behind the film being blocked, though no one knows to this day exactly why. Her reasons were her own, and should not be dismissed. However, shortly after the Queen of Soul’s death, the film was screened for her family, who, according to reports, desperately wanted the public to see this very special and very personal side of Aretha.

Academy Award 2019 qualifying theatrical runs in New York City and Los Angeles have been met by such enthusiasm as to defy precedent, even with no promotion being done by the film’s new distributor, independent Neon. It has broken records for ticket sales for any film in some theatres, with additional screenings being added to keep up with demand, which, unlike most indie films, is being seen primarily by families and Blacks.

Still image of Aretha Franklin, head shiny from sweat, during the filming and recording of Amazing Grace.

Time will tell if this translates into mainstream box-office success, but until then, we still have a selection of recordings right here over the next hour to hopefully keep you wanting more. All tracks are pulled from the two days of recording, and presented in a continuous sequence.

Audio selections from Amazing Grace

  • Aretha’s Introduction by the Reverend James Cleveland
  • Wholy Holy
  • You’ll Never Walk Alone
  • What A Friend We Have In Jesus
  • God Will Take Care Of You
  • Old Landmark
  • Mary, Don’t You Weep
  • Precious Memories
  • How I Got Over
 To download this program, please click on the three dots at the right of the player.

Love to you all, and Merry Christmas.

Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner

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