In 1972, Aretha Franklin made history. Along with producer Jerry Wexler, a handful of backup singers and the legendary Atlantic Records rhythm section, The Queen of Soul recorded one of the biggest and most beloved gospel records of all time.
Amazing Grace is the long-awaited film capturing the recording of the namesake album. Experience it this May in UK cinemas.
“I sing to the realists; people who accept it like it is ”
In a humble Baptist church, in a little known neighbourhood of Los Angeles, Aretha Franklin’s voice bounces around a cavernous hall – much to the delight of a bedazzled live audience and camera crew. The performance induces onlookers to cavort, whoop and weep, visibly moved by the energy of the Tennessee-born singer. Over two days in The New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, classic tracks such as What a Friend We Have in Jesus, You’ll Never Walk Alone and Mary, Don’t You Weep were recorded as part of the behemoth masterpiece Amazing Grace. A sight, we assume, as equally awe-inspiring as the sound that came from it.
While the record went on to define Franklin’s career – and simultaneously cement gospel music’s place in the mainstream – the footage detailing the making of the album was shelved. Plagued with technical difficulties, the film’s director, Sydney Pollack, was forced to abandon the project, depriving the world of a glimpse into Aretha Franklin’s celestial performances.
That was until producer Alan Elliot picked the project back up in 2008 and, following two years of revisions, was able to salvage the footage. It's an impressive feat – the resulting film is a celebration of the gospel titan, whose soul-laced vocals are enhanced by Pollack’s intimate portrayal of the live recording process.
The stunning Grade I-listed church is a fitting setting for the divine performance, and with the one year anniversary of Franklin’s death fast approaching, the film serves as a great way to reminisce over one of the most powerful voices of the 20th Century.
Amazing Grace is out now.