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Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin Hardcover – October 28, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (October 28, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316196835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316196833
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"It's a comprehensive, illuminating and unfailingly solicitous account of a life that, whatever its tribulations, conflicts and complications, has always somehow been redeemed by Franklin's musical calling.... [Ritz has] an exceptional capacity to listen with care and sympathy to what people tell him, and then render their words vividly and compassionately."—Gene Seymour, USA Today

"A remarkably complex portrait of [Aretha Franklin's] music and her tumultuous life."—Rolling Stone

"You'll be in the nimble hands of a pro if you read Respect."—Janet Maslin, New York Times

"An honest and genuinely respectful portrait of a true diva by a writer who feels the power of her art."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"David Ritz's Respect judiciously captures the conflicted life of the legendary Queen of Soul."—Lisa Shea, Elle

"Ritz's intimate and elegant voice steps from behind the veil of the ghostwriter to tell a tale of genius, dysfunction and blind ambition, describing a world of triumph and tragedy of near mythic proportions. A great read and a really heroic work of biography -- honest, loving, no holds barred."—Ben Sidran, author of There Was a Fire

"The monumental biography we've been waiting for of Lady Soul, our greatest soul singer, from the also very great David Ritz, confidante to an entire generation of soul stars -- Ray, Smokey, B.B., Etta, Marvin, etcetera. He is The Man. This is The Book."—Joel Selvin, author of Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues

"A fascinating, delicious depiction of the life of a woman who'd rather not be depicted.... A book so juicy, it is dripping."—Rich Juzwiak, Gawker

"This far surpasses David Ritz's landmark study of Marvin Gaye. People will be reading Respect generations from now to understand our musical culture. Ritz deserves a lifetime achievement award for "Most Soul Full Account of America's Music."—Charles Keil, ethnomusicologist, author of Urban Blues

"A candid, far less sanitized look at the enormously gifted but demanding diva."—People

"Respect will stand as one of Ritz's greatest and most unusual achievements: a rich, definitive portrait set in motion by a bit of unfinished business."—Nate Chinen, New York Times

"Like the great gospel choirs, Respect brings together a community of powerful voices in a tribute to the powers of music, the spirit, and, above all, Lady Soul. Crowning his life's work, David Ritz has achieved the near-impossible, taking us behind the many masks that Aretha has worn through one of the most complex musical lives of the 20th and 21st centuries. Everyone who loves gospel and soul has experienced moments when the only response is one of profound gratitude. When I finished Respect, that's what I felt. A towering achievement."—Craig Werner, author of Higher Ground: Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield and the Rise & Fall of American Soul

"Revealing."—Natalie Beach, O, The Oprah Magazine's "10 Titles to Pick Up Now"

"Only someone who had the complete confidence and trust of Aretha's family and the elite of the Gospel and Rhythm and Blues communities could have gotten this story. An intimate and thorough account of this phenomenal woman's talent and life as only David Ritz could capture."—Tommy LiPuma, Grammy-winning producer

"Drawing on previous work and interviews with those close to Franklin, Ritz offers a portrait of a woman for whom faith and respect are essential."—Vanessa Bush, Booklist (starred review)

"A full and frank account of the Queen of Soul's career.... Ultimately a poignant and disappointing tale of a singer who never reached the pinnacle for which she aimed."—Henry L. Carrigan Jr., BookPage

"The most comprehensive and accurate account of Franklin yet published."—Christopher Loudon, Maclean's Magazine

"Thorough research and an intimate personal story make this book the definitive biography of a popular American diva."—The Fresno Bee

"Ritz's book ultimately succeeds because it holistically presents a balanced psychological portrait of the great legend."—Joey DiGuglielmo, Washington Blade

RESPECT "is commendable for its depth... as well as Ritz's highly readable, captivating style. It's a compelling record of the life of a musical titan and a fascinating picture of the process of recording some of the seminal popular music of our time.... The king of cowriters provides the queen of soul with the definitive biography, along with a healthy dose of reverence, reflection and, above all, R.E.S.P.E.C.T."—Bill Baars, Library Journal (starred review)

"In RESPECT, his unauthorized portrait of Aretha Franklin, long-time pop music biographer David Ritz pulls back the swirling curtains the Queen of Soul has long drawn between herself and her fans, revealing the woman whose often troubled life has given all-too-human substance to her heartbreakingly passionate music."—Michael Lydon, author of Boogie Lightning

"[Ritz's] research -- based on interviews with Franklin's siblings and departed legends from Ahmet Ertegun to Vandross -- is solid, and he vividly expresses what made her voice and albums so monumental in the sixties."—David Browne, Rolling Stone

"The most revealing and well-rounded portrait of the Queen ever written."—Jim Farber, New York Daily News

The "compelling and much-needed redo on the career and complicated life of Aretha Franklin.... An unflinching portrait of a musical genius who seems lost whenever she's not in front of a microphone or piano."—Thor Christensen, Dallas Morning News

"Offers an abundance of information... Ritz also sheds light on Aretha's personal life."—Elsa Dixler, New York Times Book Review

"[Ritz's] fascinating and unflinching book relies on exhaustive research compiled over a lifetime of interviewing music business A-listers...."—John Lyttle, Winnipeg Free Press

"Respect is a major biography, and unauthorized in the extreme. Ritz has done well to recount the life as a whole."—Robert Christgau, Barnes & Noble Review

"Ritz chronicles Franklin's ups and downs with honesty and sympathy: her musical successes, her difficult relationships, her career reinventions and her life's ambitions. Through it all, Ritz celebrates how Franklin manages to triumph over the challenges in her life and remains one of the most influential musicians of recent history."—Katherine Handcock, A Mighty Girl

"A triumph.... I highly recommend this book."—Larry Buford,

"A dramatic and definitive study of the Queen."—Marilyn Dahl, Broadway World's Bookworks

"A beautiful biography.... The poetic descriptions of Aretha's musical genius make it impossible to resist pulling out old records or watching performances on YouTube."—Sheri Doyle, Waterloo Region Record

"Giving an in-depth look into the Queen of Soul's life, Respect offers a story that goes beyond the glimmer. It is thoroughly revealing."—Esther Callens, The Birmingham Times

About the Author

David Ritz is the only four-time winner of the Gleason Music Book Award and won the 2013 ASCAP Timothy White award for outstanding musical biography for his book with Buddy Guy. He also cowrote, with Marvin Gaye, the song "Sexual Healing" and lives in Los Angeles with his wife.

Customer Reviews

Very well researched, interesting read.
Margaret A. Kuhn
The original autobiography of Aretha Franklin that David Ritz co-authored was the only one of his excellent books to date that I had found unsatisfying.
Peter Barakan
In short, I strongly recommend "Respect," a warts and all account of the very difficult and often sad life of America's premier music diva.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Montoya_Mayan on November 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book may very well be the definitive biography of Aretha Franklin, an iconic artist who guards her privacy ferociously. I'm sure that she doesn't like it. It lays bare her life and many of the details that she keeps close to her chest. I'm sure she'd prefer that we concentrate on her legendary accomplishments. Her music is the soundtrack of our lives, but just who is Aretha Franklin? The book asks this question and the answers are complicated. Miss Franklin (or the Queen, if you insist--and she, reportedly, does) has lived many lives and been many people: motherless child, favorite daughter, child prodigy, teen mother, battered wife, competitive sister. If this book is to be believed, she is also the most difficult diva this side of Diana Ross. She's loving, while also seemingly incapable of love. She (allegedly) picks up people and drops them the minute they say or do something she doesn't like, no matter how minute, only to pick them up again. She jealously guards her title of Queen of Soul and has feuded with every female singer to come down the pipe in her lifetime, from Mahalia to Mariah to Mary J. I walked away from this book with the impression that Aretha Franklin is a jealous, petty, insecure, insensitive, spoiled, angry woman who has overcome and gone through an awful lot. No wonder she refuses to face reality and would rather live in a fractured fantasy world. She's conquered the world with her music, but Aretha hasn't been so successful when it comes to overcoming her food addiction and fear of heights (flying, in particular). She also can't find Mr. Right. In short, I strongly recommend "Respect," a warts and all account of the very difficult and often sad life of America's premier music diva.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Andre D. Haynes on November 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book is the definitive biography of Aretha Franklin. This book is well written, very well researched, and a must read if you are one of millions that enjoy 'Sista Ree's' music. He knows his subject first hand, and he quotes her sisters, brother, former employees for an in depth, revealing portrait of a woman who hates to be exposed. She is competitive, petty, hates her female contemporaries, and doggedly holds on to the crown of 'Queen of Soul'! We also learn the fathers of her sons, she was a Mother at 13 and 15 yrs old respectively. This book holds nothing back! A perfect 10! Read the book and you tell me. :)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By KAT on November 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I would recommend the book to anyone who is a fan of Aretha Franklin. It certainly sheds light on her quirks and idiosyncrasies. I was truly saddened by some revelations regarding her personal struggles. Despite her tremendous gift to others, she was often sad, lonely, and troubled. And yet, we judge her when she fails to show up or behaves like a "diva." This book should remind everyone to NOT judge anyone, and no matter what you see on the surface, we all have struggles. I just wish she had sought mental health long ago. But then, that wasn't "the thing" back when she was going to through many of her earlier struggles. My prayer is for strength and peace for Aretha!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By T. King on December 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've heard the stories for years about how difficult Aretha Franklin is known to be -- to fellow performers, making audiences swelter at her shows due to her disdain for air conditioning -- and while I've enjoyed her Atlantic years recordings, her purported attitude always kept me from actually liking HER as a person. Not to mention that about 7 years ago I had the displeasure of encountering The Queen and these old men acting as her footsoldiers at Colony Records in NY when one of her peons tried to tell me where to stand. I had no idea why this old man was in my face and was about to curse him out until I realized that I was getting dangerously close to The Queen as I tried to make my way to the cash register. Who knew? And I was annoyed; if she didn't want to be noticed, then she shouldn't have had on that ridiculous black mink coat in April in NYC. But I digress...

David Ritz has done her a major solid by finally making SENSE of who she is and why she is the way she clearly is. That is the function of a great biographer; to make a reader empathize with the subject, even one we may have had previous unfavorable impressions of. That was brilliantly done here. Now my heart in fact goes out to Aretha Franklin, and understanding the nature of her idiosyncrasies really helps one be able to see past them to take in the full breadth of who she is and what she represents. As an added plus, this was the first book I've read entirely on a Kindle fire, and having Aretha's "Queen of Soul" box set playing on my headphones while reading it was a beautifully immersive experience. I can't wait to experience more music biographies this way.

I understand that Miss Franklin has released statements to the press calling this book a pack of defamatory lies, threatening legal action, etc.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dino on December 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Just as thwarted Aretha ghostwriter David Ritz's unauthorized bio was hitting bookstores, the Queen of Soul gave it some extra publicity by denouncing it as trash and threatening to get her lawyers involved.

But as you read this remarkable tome, you learn that Aretha habitually ponders legal action for various imagined slights. She was furious when a Time magazine cover story included a few unflattering remarks, and when Steely Dan namechecked her in "Hey Nineteen." Call the lawyers! she screamed, before wiser souls in her circle risked their livelihoods by telling her to calm down. In reality, Aretha was frequently on the wrong end of lawsuits, sued for backing out of engagements, or pursued by the IRS and creditors for not paying her bills.

"Respect" has a lot of juicy details, but the title is more than just a nod to her best known song. David Ritz writes in his usual elegant way with the utmost respect for this, ahem, larger-than-life legend. Inevitably, you will put the book down in a few places and head to your stereo or to Youtube to play some Aretha, as he shines new light on her musical craft. In my case, I took a Youtube break to watch her 1971 concert at the Fillmore West and the trailer for the unreleased film shot for her "Amazing Grace" gospel album. David Ritz describes both in vivid detail.

I wouldn't call him a fanboy, but there are few writers who are so enamored of and knowledgable about Aretha as David Ritz who, I guess, won't be on Aretha's Christmas card list this year, or ever again. He collaborated with her on her memoir "From These Roots," which he basically admits was her idealized fantasy. It wasn't his fault. She made stuff up, and kicked him out of the editing process.
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