“You better think (think) think about what you’re trying to do to me… Yeah, think (think, think), let your mind go, let yourself be free”. Everyone knows the legendary song ‘Think’ by Aretha Franklin, especially when the chorus hits and ‘Freedooooooom’ bursts out of the stereo speakers.
The song was released in 1968 as a feminist anthem because Franklin sings about freedom, equality and respect for women. It turned out to be a huge success, becoming her seventh top-10 hit in the United States. Twelve years later the song got released again and is even more popular than the original one. But before I tell you why, you need to know some background information about the famous singer, feminist and activist.
It all starts in 1948 when Aretha’s mother Barbara leaves her husband and three daughters. Aretha, who had the age of six at that time, didn’t tell much about it but it’s most likely that her mother left them because of the numerous affairs her famous husband, and Aretha’s father, Clarence had. Clarence was a well-known preacher in the New Bethel Baptist Church and got famous for his “million-dollar voice”. This resulted in a lot of visits from famous musicians like: Sam Cooke, Mahalia Jackson, Dinah Washington and James Cleveland. But also Martin Luther King knew his way to their house. This is how Aretha got aware of music but also human rights.
At the age of fourteen Aretha gave birth to her first son and a year later she became mother of her second son. She never talked about her first two sons’ fathers. Franklin’s grandmother Rachel and sister Erma took care of her children while Aretha was pursuing her career.
These important happenings in her life might made her think not to be independent on men. She wanted to take care of her own business and become a singer. That happened when she signed a contract at Columbia Records in 1960, but it didn’t bring her big successes. Six years later she switched to Atlantic Records which resulted in many hits, including ‘Think’.
Besides her music, Aretha also showed to be a feminist and activist on stage. Wearing bouffant hairdos and extravagant dresses in the beginning of her career, Aretha made clear that she didn’t care about the opinions of others. And in the ‘70s she showed her activist side by embracing her roots and wearing an Afro and the Afrocentric styled clothing.
As I said before, the second version of ‘Think’ got very popular too. In the 1980’s movie The Blues Brothers, starring Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi, Aretha’s performs this song in a whole different way. This new and longer version is more up-tempo and includes a sax riff performed by Blues Brothers saxophonist Lou Marini.
But as you can see in the video below, Aretha isn’t the best actress. She clearly wasn’t used to lip-syncing so the scene required a lot of takes and considerable editing. Luckily, she has fantastic singing-skills which made her, besides being a feminist and activist, ‘the Queen of Soul’.