Call Me - Aretha Franklin
This song was recorded in 1969 with the Muscle Shoals backing crew and produced by Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin, the combination that Aretha worked with to make her greatest tracks in the late 60's and early 70's. Right from the start, her overbearing and allegedly abusive husband Ted White objected to her working with a bunch of Southern white musicians and didn't see eye to eye with Wexler or Dowd. This was one of the many contributory causes to their break-up, though definitely not the most important.
Aretha had the idea for the song after having heard a parting couple on a street say the words "I love you....call me" before they went off in different directions. But when she came round to recording it, she was in the studio just about to start when a phone call came for her. She left the room, took the call and then came back in. I've heard two versions of the story: one that it was the news from her lawyer to say that her divorce from White had just come through, the other that it was White on the phone pleading with her not to go through with it.
Either way, after the call she came back in and cut this vocal, and was crying as she sang it, tears rolling down her cheeks. Aretha had a tough early life, having her first child at the age of twelve - the father was a boy from her school - and struggling with a series of difficult relationships. But just because the relationship has gone bad, or was even never good in the first place, it doesn't mean that the inevitable separation wasn't tragic or heartbreaking when it finally came.
Instead of a celebration of love and the sadness of parting, this becomes a song of loneliness, the cry of someone who has just fallen into the abyss:
"......my dearest, my dearest of all darling I know, I know, I know, I know we’ve got to part baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, it really doesn’t hurt me that bad yeah because you’re taking me with you and I’m keeping you right a here in my heart...."
This is what makes Aretha great, the way she can articulate her emotions in her music, the joy, the passion, the pride and in this case the heartbreak and pain with such tenderness and power, and even when she is - literally - falling apart, with such control. This isn't a real plea, but the cry of a woman who knows a great love of her life is gone forever:
"...it's all because I love you, and I love you, and I love you too
baby will you call me the moment you get there, baby will you do that, will you do that for me now?......"
And that's why it's called soul music. And why she was the best.