It was 49 years ago today, on January 24, 1967, when record producer Jerry Wexler brought the 24-year-old singer Aretha Franklin to Muscle Shoals, Alabama for a history-making recording session.
Wexler brought along the legendary recording engineer Tom Dowd, and the session that day resulted in Aretha Franklin’s ground-breaking recording of “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)” – the soul single that was to become the first big hit of her career when it was released the following month.
Aretha Franklin Hits Number One
The song hit number one on the Rhythm and Blues charts and number nine on the pop charts, firmly establishing Aretha Franklin’s recording career. She went on to record a total of 112 charted singles on Billboard, including 77 “Hot 100” entries, 17 top-ten pop singles, 100 Rhythm and Blues entries and 20 number-one Rhythm and Blues singles, becoming the most-charted female artist in the history of the R&B charts.
Aretha Franklin has won a total of 18 Grammy Awards and is one of the best-selling recording artists of all time, with over 75 million records sold worldwide. In 1987 she became the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2008 she was honored with the number-one spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the Top 100 Singers of All Time.
It’s worth noting, however, that the 1967 session at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals wasn’t the start of Aretha Franklin’s recording career. She was just 18 years old and optimistic about her future in the music business when she signed with Columbia Records in 1960, but her years with that label brought her only mediocre levels of success.
She was still a long way from becoming the widely-acclaimed Queen of Soul.
When her contract with Columbia expired Jerry Wexler wasted no time in getting her signed up with Atlantic Records, and almost immediately they were on their way to Alabama for a recording session.
Authentic Soul Music & Bi-Racial Cooperation
As the music historian Tom Daniel has noted, their goal was “to start recording some authentic soul music with some authentic soul musicians. Aretha was wary of the fake-sounding soul coming out of Detroit, and she specifically wanted to do some authentic work with the same guys who were kicking butt with Wilson Pickett. When she walked into that Alabama recording studio in 1967 and saw a bunch of white guys plugged in and ready to play, she nearly quit.
“She wanted authentic soul music. Jerry Wexler calmly explained to her that this was it. This WAS authentic. No matter what color these guys happened to have for their skin, they were the same guys who grew up in rural Alabama listening to soul and gospel, and they were the same guys who gave Percy Sledge and Wilson Pickett such a stirring soul sound. She briefly flirted with the notion of going to Memphis, instead, but Wexler advised her that the situation there was exactly the same. It appeared that the so-called authentic soul music coming out of Tennessee and Alabama was a product of bi-racial cooperation. It’s one of those things Southerners have always accepted, but Yankees can’t seem to get their heads around.”
The Planets Behind Aretha Franklin’s Success
While it certainly helped Aretha Franklin to get Jerry Weller behind her, along with his wise choice of a recording venue, there’s also a lot to learn from the astrology involved.
Aretha Franklin’s birth chart not only reveals her enormous talent and creativity; with her natal Ascendant triggering the midpoint of Mercury and Jupiter, the dominant money planets in her horoscope, it also highlights her capacity for financial success.
But like so many other successful women, Aretha Franklin only began to activate the money in her horoscope when the transiting planets made the right alignments.
That’s what was happening when she and Jerry Weller showed up for her recording date in Alabama 49 years ago.
Support From The Transneptunians
The slow-moving transneptunian factors had already been at work on her chart for some time at that point.
Transiting Kronos was forming a sextile to her natal Sun, hinting that it was time for her to take on a superior status in her chosen profession.
Even more importantly, transiting Apollon, the factor connected with widespread commercial success, was at the 0º Libra World Point as it formed a semi-square to her natal Ascendant – a clear indication that mega-stardom would soon be on its way!
There were also Neptune dynamics at work as she began to sing that. Transiting Neptune was square her natal Midheaven, opening up her career potential dramatically, and at the same time transiting Jupiter was forming a sextile to her natal Neptune, the co-ruler of her fifth house of creativity and artistic talent.
It was truly a life-changing set of planetary influences – and the world of music has been the beneficiary for nearly half a century!