When Aretha Franklin left Columbia Records for Atlantic in 1966, the label’s vice president, Jerry Wexler, came to the singer with some suggestions for songs she might cover, like Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” and Ray Charles’ “Drown in My Own Tears.” She liked those ideas, but she had one of her own: “Respect,” a song she’d been performing live. “Long as she changes it up,” Wexler told Franklin’s manager Ted White in an exchange recounted by Franklin’s biographer David Ritz. “You don’t gotta worry about that,” White responded. “She changes it up all right.”Otis Redding wrote “Respect” and recorded it for the Stax/Volt label in 1965. But Franklin took possession of the song for all time with her definitive cover, cut at Atlantic’s New York studio on Valentine’s Day 1967. “Respect” was her first Number One hit and the single that established her as the Queen of Soul.In Redding’s reading, a brawny march, he called for equal favor with volcanic force. Franklin wasn’t asking for anything. She sang from higher ground: a woman calling for an end to the exhaustion and sacrifice of a raw deal with scorching sexual authority. In short: If you want some, you will earn it. “For Otis, ‘respect’ had the traditional connotation, the more abstract meaning of esteem,” Wexler said in his autobiography, Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music. “The fervor in Aretha’s magnificent voice demanded that respect and more: Respect also involved sexual attention of the highest order. What else could ‘Sock it to me’ mean?”He was referring to the knockout sound of Franklin’s backup singers — her sisters, Carolyn and Erma — chanting “Sock it to me” at high speed, which Aretha and Carolyn cooked up for the session. The late Tom Dowd, who engineered the date, credited Carolyn with the saucy breakdown in which Aretha spelled out the title: “I fell off my chair when I heard that!” And since Redding’s version had no bridge, Wexler had the band — the legendary studio crew from Muscle Shoals, Alabama — play the chord changes from Sam and Dave’s “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby” under King Curtis’ tenor-sax solo.There is no mistaking the passion inside the discipline of Franklin’s delivery; she was surely drawing on her own tumultuous marriage at the time for inspiration. “If she didn’t live it,” Wexler said, “she couldn’t give it.” But, he added, “Aretha would never play the part of the scorned woman.… Her middle name was Respect.”Leading off her Atlantic debut, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, “Respect” catalyzed rock & roll, gospel, and blues to create the model for soul music that artists still look to today (Mariah Carey called Franklin “my mentor”). Just as important, the song’s unapologetic demands resonated powerfully with the civil rights movement and emergent feminist revolution, fitting for an artist who donated to the Black Panther Party and sang at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. In her 1999 memoir, Franklin wrote that the song reflected “the need of the average man and woman in the street, the businessman, the mother, the fireman, the teacher — everyone wanted respect.” We still do.