Woman Got Pipes

I am probably the absolutely worst person to be introducing Lime to Aretha Franklin, since I really only know a couple of her songs, but when I got home tonight, for some reason, a little chunk of the backing vocals on “Respect” had suddenly bloomed into an earworm, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I think the word “respect” summoned it up, but in any case, it’s the bit in some versions where the backing singers start chanting “Sockittomesockittome…” [Sock it to me, but really fast] over and over. In my head it comes at a major turnaround (a moment of structural and harmonic tension) but neither of the versions I found on Youtube used that background in that way, though this one was the closest:

Let’s just say that me standing in the kitchen with a plate of spicy grilled rice cake in my hand singing, “Sockittome, sockittome, sockittome, sockittome” doesn’t have anywhere near the same effect as Aretha’s backing singers. For that matter, me singing, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!” doesn’t have any effect at all except to make Lime laugh her guts out.

But hey, it’s all good. I think I’m gonna use this song in my Exploring English Culture Through Poetry and Song discussion of poetry and song about womanhood in a few weeks.

4 thoughts on “Woman Got Pipes

  1. This is going to sound a little weird, but I’ve always liked the way she leaned into “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” just the slightest bit microtonally flat. (I’m cursed with an extremely accurate pitch sense, and I hear stuff like this.) Any other place or time, it would bug me, but with Aretha singing that particular phrase, it *fits* somehow, in ways that singing the “right” pitch wouldn’t have. I’m pretty sure she did it intentionally, for effect, and it paid off .. I seem to recall she was pretty good with hooks like that .. :)

  2. That’s funny, I always heard it as basically a semitone lower than the note she ends on, though it could be slightly less than a full semitone. I hear it like the flat-5 in blues music, basically. In fact, I heard it as the flat-5 followed by natural 5th, but I have no idea if that’s the harmony behind it at all. Just one of those bluesy slightly-flat effect things. But yeah, I think that basically makes the song. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *