Respect (song)

"Respect" is a song written and originally released by American recording artist Otis Redding in 1965. The song became a 1967 hit and signature song for soul singer Aretha Franklin. The music in the two versions is significantly different, and through a few changes in the lyrics, the stories told by the songs have a different flavor. Redding's version is a plea from a desperate man, who will give his woman anything she wants. He won't care if she does him wrong, as long as he gets his due respect when he brings money home. However, Franklin's version is a declaration from a strong, confident woman, who knows that she has everything her man wants. She never does him wrong, and demands his "respect". Franklin's version adds the "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" chorus and the backup singers' refrain of "Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me...".

Franklin's cover was a landmark for the feminist movement, and is often considered one of the best songs of the R&B era, earning her two Grammy Awards in 1968 for "Best Rhythm & Blues Recording" and "Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Female", and was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2002, the Library of Congress honored Franklin's version by adding it to the National Recording Registry. It was placed number five on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". It was also included in the list of "Songs of the Century", by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. Franklin included a live recording on the album Aretha in Paris (1968).


At first a ballad, "Respect" was written by Redding for Speedo Sims, who intended to record it with his band, the Singing Demons. Redding rewrote the lyrics and sped up the rhythm. Speedo then went with the band to the Muscle Shoals studios, but was unable to produce a good version. Redding then decided to sing the song himself, which Speedo agreed to. Redding also promised to credit Speedo on the liner notes, but this never happened; Speedo, however, never charged him for not doing so.

The song was included on Redding's third studio album, Otis Blue (1965). The album became widely successful, even outside of his largely R&B and blues fan base. When released in the summer of 1965, the song reached the top five on Billboard's Black Singles Chart, and crossed over to pop radio's white audience, peaking at number thirty-five there. At the time, the song became Redding's second largest crossover hit (after "I've Been Loving You Too Long") and paved the way to future presence on American radio. Redding performed it at the Monterey Pop Festival.

The two versions of "Respect," as originally written and recorded by Otis Redding and as later re-imagined by Aretha Franklin, are significantly different. While both songs have similar styles and tempos the writers and performers of the lyrics clearly had two different messages in mind. The songs differ lyrically in the refrains, and even the verses have a different slant.

"Redding's version is characteristically funky, with his raspy-soulful singing and electric vocal charisma front and center." His song utilizes "playful horns and sexy, mock-beleaguered vocals" to deliver lyrics without any subtext. The message of a man demanding respect from his woman for being the breadwinner is decisively clear. Redding's version was written from the perspective of a hardworking man who can only look forward to getting home and finally receiving the respect he deserves from his family. His version is less a plea for respect and more a comment on a man's feeling of worth in his work life and at home. He mentions that he's "about to, just give you all of my money", and that all he wants in return is respect. The woman he is singing to can even "do me wrong, honey, if you wanna to/You can do me wrong honey, while I'm gone." The lyrics are repetitive and straightforward throughout the song; there isn't any layering of messages or intentions.

The original version of "Respect" was produced by Steve Cropper, who also played instrumentals for the hit track along with William Bell and Earl Sims on backup vocals.

The inspiration for the song had come when, in response to Redding's complaints after a hard tour, MGs drummer Al Jackson reportedly said: "What are you griping about? You're on the road all the time. All you can look for is a little respect when you come home."

Producer Jerry Wexler booked Franklin for a series of recording dates in January–February 1967, starting with "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You", recorded in Alabama at FAME Studios by engineer Tom Dowd. After an altercation between the studio owner and Franklin's husband and manager, Ted White, the sessions continued ten days later in New York without White, recording "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man", using the same engineer and the same Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section musicians as in Alabama. The next week the group recorded "Respect", which Franklin had been performing in her live shows for several years. Her version of the song flipped the gender of the lyrics, as worked out by Franklin with her sisters Erma and Carolyn. Franklin instructed the rhythm section how to perform her established arrangement of the "stop-and-stutter" syncopation, and in the studio she worked out new parts for the backing singers. "Respect" was recorded on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1967. The repeated "sock it to me" line, sung by Franklin's sisters, was an idea that Carolyn and Aretha had worked out together; spelling out "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" was (according to engineer Tom Dowd) Carolyn's idea. The phrase "Sock it to me" became a household expression. In an interview with WHYY's Fresh Air in 1999, Aretha said, "Some of the girls were saying that to the fellas, like 'sock it to me' in this way or 'sock it to me' in that way. It's not sexual. It was nonsexual, just a cliché line."

In the bridge, King Curtis' tenor saxophone soloed over the chords from Sam and Dave's song "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby". Franklin played piano for the number; in an interview, Spooner Oldham explained it was not uncommon for Franklin herself to play accompanying piano. The overall arrangement was by co-producer Arif Mardin, based on the ideas Franklin brought in. Said Mardin: "I have been in many studios in my life, but there was never a day like that. It was like a festival. Everything worked just right."

The resulting song was featured on Franklin's 1967 breakthrough Atlantic Records debut album, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. As the title track became a hit on both R&B and pop radio, Atlantic Records arranged for the release of this new version of "Respect" as a single.

So much of what made "Respect" a hit—and an anthem—came from the Franklin rearrangement (including the Muscle Shoals musician's soulful guitar hook, the background vocals, and the added sax solo/chords). Franklin's rendition found greater success than the original, spending two weeks atop the Billboard Pop Singles chart, and eight weeks on the Billboard Black Singles chart. The changes in lyrics and production drove Franklin's version to become an anthem for the increasingly large Civil Rights and Women's Rights movements. She altered the lyrics to represent herself, a strong woman demanding respect from her man. Franklin's demands for "Respect" were "associated either with black freedom struggles or women’s liberation."

The song also became a hit internationally, reaching number 10 in the United Kingdom, and helping to transform Franklin from a domestic star into an international one. Otis Redding himself was impressed with the performance of the song. At the Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of the cover's release, he was quoted playfully describing "Respect" as the song "that a girl took away from me, a friend of mine, this girl she just took this song". "When her hit single 'Respect' climbed the charts in July 1967, some fans declared that the summer of 1967 was 'the summer of 'Retha, Rap, and Revolt.'"


  • Written by Otis Redding

    Otis Redding version

  • Otis Redding – lead vocals
  • Booker T. Jones – keyboards, piano
  • Isaac Hayes – keyboards, piano
  • Steve Cropper – guitar
  • Donald Dunn – bass guitar
  • Al Jackson Jr. – drums
  • Wayne Jackson – trumpet
  • Gene "Bowlegs" Miller – trumpet
  • Andrew Love – tenor saxophone
  • Floyd Newman – baritone saxophone
  • William Bell – backing vocals
  • Earl Sims – backing vocals

    Additional personnel
  • Steve Cropper – producer
  • Tom Dowd – engineer

    Aretha Franklin version

  • Aretha Franklin – lead vocals, piano
  • Spooner OldhamFarfisa organ
  • Chips Moman, Jimmy Johnson – guitar
  • Tommy Cogbill – bass guitar
  • Roger Hawkins – drums
  • King Curtis – tenor saxophone
  • Charles Chalmers – tenor saxophone
  • Willie Bridges – baritone saxophone
  • Melvin Lastiecornet
  • Carolyn Franklin – background vocals
  • Erma Franklin – background vocals

    Additional personnel
  • Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin – producers
  • Tom Dowd – engineer


    Franklin's version of the song contains the famous lines (as printed in the lyrics included in the 1985 compilation album Atlantic Soul Classics):

    :R-E-S-P-E-C-T :Find out what it means to me :R-E-S-P-E-C-T :Take care of... TCB

    "TCB" is an abbreviation, commonly used in the 1960s and 1970s, meaning "Taking Care (of) Business". It was particularly widely used in African-American culture. However, it was somewhat less well known outside of that culture. The last line is often misquoted as "Take out TCP", or something similar, and indeed most published music sheets that include the lyrics contain this incorrect line, possibly because those who transcribed Franklin's words for music sheets weren't familiar with the culture. Nevertheless, "TCB in a flash" later became Elvis Presley's motto and signature.

    "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" and "TCB" are not present in Redding's original song, but were included in some of his later performances with the Bar-Kays. There seems to be some confusion over which artist first used "TCB" in the song.

    Franklin ad-libbed lyrics in which she demands "[her] the propers" when he gets home.

    Franklin's version of the song was released in 1967, amid notable societal changes; these included the Civil Rights Movement, the war in Vietnam, the Equal Rights Amendment, and the Black Panthers movement. Franklin's message is conveyed as a demand for increased respect towards women during this time, many of whom were playing roles as civil rights activists without adequate recognition. When asked about her audacious stance amidst the feminist and Civil Rights Movement, Franklin told the Detroit Free Press, "I don't think it's bold at all. I think it's quite natural that we all want respect—and should get it."

    Chart history

    Aretha Franklin version

    Certifications and sales


    Diana Ross and the Supremes with the Temptations

    Because Aretha Franklin made "Respect" a hit, many who sample or cover the song refer to Franklin's version rather than Redding's. The Supremes and the Temptations were the two most successful acts signed to Berry Gordy, Jr.’s Motown record label. Gordy decided to pair them up on a collaborative LP titled Diana Ross & the Supremes Join The Temptations. To accompany the release of the LP, Gordy organized a prime-time special TV program entitled TCB, a commonly used abbreviation for "Taking Care of Business".

    Among the songs performed on the program was a cover of Aretha Franklin's version of "Respect". The two groups took Franklin's message to new heights as the male versus female duet illustrated a battle in which each gender demanded their own respect. Additionally, the cover highlights the Supremes’ own battle for racial equality. Much like Aretha Franklin, The Supremes’ rise to fame coincided with the civil rights movement, in which these women used their fame and status to assist the fight for racial equality. The Supremes were the Motown group which most successfully broke down racial boundaries within the popular music industry. They represented racial integration, black empowerment, and black womanhood, and their cover of "Respect" with the Temptations illustrates that.


  • A cover by The Rationals reached No. 92 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966.
  • A house music cover with altered lyrics was released by American singer Adeva in 1989, which reached No. 17 on the UK Singles Chart and is featured on her debut album.
  • In 2012, Melanie Amaro recorded an uptempo version of the song for a Pepsi commercial alongside Elton John as a part of her prize for winning the first season of The X Factor USA. The single landed at no.42 Billboards top Dance Club Songs of 2012.


    "Respect" has appeared in dozens of films and still receives consistent play on radio stations. In the 1970s, Franklin's version of the song came to exemplify the feminist movement. Producer Wexler said in a Rolling Stone interview, that Franklin's song was "global in its influence, with overtones of the civil-rights movement and gender equality. It was an appeal for dignity." Although she had numerous hits after "Respect", and several before its release, the song became Franklin's signature song and her best-known recording. I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You was ranked eighty-third in Rolling Stones "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" in 2003. A year later, "Respect" was fifth in the magazine's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".