Aretha Franklin was just 15 when she recorded the magnificent Gospel single, “Precious Lord, Parts 1 and 2,” during a concert with her father, preacher C.L. Franklin, at the Oakland Auditorium Arena in the late ‘50s.
The concert was promoted by Mel Reid, then proprietor of Reid’s Records in Berkeley, and played an important role in her early career.
“The people got very emotional on the stage and stepped on my dad’s hat. I absolutely remember that,” Franklin, 73, recalled last week in a phone interview with the Post while traveling on her tour bus to Los Angeles. The singer said she has traveled to engagements via tour bus since experiencing a harrowing flight on a two-engine airplane in 1984.
The two-part single, first issued on the tiny JVB label in Detroit and later picked up for national consumption by Chess Records in Chicago, still stands decades later as one of Franklin’s most chilling recorded performances.
It has been reissued many times over the years, although sometimes without the especially stunning second part – which begins with a series of moans into which she interjects the words “Ain’t no harm to moan” and concludes with a descending melisma before her voice suddenly leaps an octave.
The teenager’s remarkably mature vocal performance and her own solid piano accompaniment reflected the influences of two early mentors: gospel singer Clara Ward and pianist James Cleveland, who worked as choir director at Rev. Franklin’s New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit during the mid-‘50s.
Franklin switched to secular music in 1960 with the single, “Today I Sing the Blues,” which received heavy airplay on the KDIA radio station in Oakland.
The Queen of Soul will return to Oakland on Monday, August 10 to make her first local appearance in 37 years at the Oracle Arena.
She worked primarily in nightclubs during the early ‘60s, but said she never performed at Esther’s Obit Room on 7th Street, as some sources have claimed. She did, however, return to the Oakland Auditorium Arena as the headliner in 1967 when her career skyrocketed on the strength of the hits “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” and “Respect.”
Her most famous local performance was in March 1971 at Fillmore West in San Francisco with an all-star band, led by saxophonist King Curtis and surprise guest Ray Charles. Highlights of her three nights at the Market Street venue were issued on the album “Aretha Live at Fillmore West.”
Her last Bay Area concerts were in 1976 and ‘78 at Circle Star Theater in San Carlos.