Aretha Franklin’s Biggest Hits In Australia

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Aretha Franklin’s Biggest Hits In Australia

aretha franklin, 1980
Aretha Franklin, 1980. Photo by David Redfern/Redferns.

Given her legendary status, you might have thought Aretha Franklin had more hit singles on the Australian chart than she did, but it seems local fans were a bit picky when it came to the Queen of Soul’s back catalogue. "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman"? Got no further than number 36. "Chain Of Fools"? Didn’t even make the top 50. "Think" only just did, peaking at number 49. Here’s what did reach the Australian top 30…

8. "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody"

Released: 1961

Peak: #30

First recorded by Al Johnson in 1918, this tune had also been covered by the likes of Dean Martin, Judy Garland and Connie Francis before Aretha included it on her second studio album, The Electrifying Aretha Franklin. It was her first hit in both US and Australia – and her only charting song here until she moved to Atlantic Records in 1967.

7. "See Saw"

Released: 1968

Peak: #29

Another remake, "See Saw" was first recorded by its co-writer, R&B singer Don Covay, in 1965. Three years later, Aretha included the song on her 13th album, Aretha Now – one of two albums she released in 1968 (one less than in 1967, when she’d pumped out three albums).

6. "Spanish Harlem"

Released: 1971

Peak: #16

This cover of the Ben E. King song was Aretha’s only top 50 appearance in Australia for the whole of the 1970s, despite reaching the US top 5 that decade with "Day Dreaming" and "Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)." Aretha’s version of "Spanish Harlem" was one of three remakes included as new songs on her first greatest hits album for Atlantic.

5. "Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves" (with Eurythmics)

Released: 1985

Peak: #15

Aretha made a triumphant chart comeback in 1985 with the Who’s Zoomin’ Who album, which included this female empowerment-themed collaboration with Eurythmics. The song was written by Annie Lennon and Dave Stewart, who first approached Tina Turner to appear on it with them. When she declined, Aretha agreed to record the track with the duo, with the odd lyrical adjustment.

4. "Respect"

Released: 1967

Peak: #14

Although the song that became her signature tune was another cover – "Respect" was written and released by Otis Redding in 1965 – Aretha’s certainly put her own spin on it when she recorded it two years later, having already performed it live for some time. As well as flipping the gender of the lyrics, Aretha’s version added the now iconic “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” and “sock it to me” elements.

3. "I Say A Little Prayer/The House That Jack Built"

Released: 1968

Peak: #8

Dionne Warwick’s US million-selling original version of “I Say A Little Prayer” from 1967 had not been successful in Australia, but Aretha’s remake, released just a year later, became her first top 10 hit locally. Recorded after Aretha and her backing singers gave an impromptu performance of the song at rehearsals for the Aretha Now album, "I Say A Little Prayer" was relegated to B-side status in the US, but ended up becoming as successful there as A-side "The House That Jack Built."

2. "Freeway Of Love"

Released: 1985

Peak: #6

The lead single from Who’s Zoomin’ Who broke a 14-year top 50 drought for Aretha in Australia and was her first US top 10 hit since 1973. The turnaround was due to the pop stylings of "Freeway Of Love," which was co-written and produced by Narada Michael Walden, also responsible for a large chunk of Whitney Houston’s ’80s output, and featured an on-trend saxophone solo by Clarence Clemons.

1. "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" (with George Michael)

Released: 1987

Peak: #1

Tucked away on 1986 album Aretha, this duet with a post-Wham! George Michael was released as its third single in early 1987, quickly topping charts around the world, including in Australia. Not initially written as a duet, and another song that was posited as a possible track for Tina Turner, "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" came together at the suggestion of Aretha’s label boss, Clive Davis.

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