Original film footage: Sydney Pollack (1972)
Digitally remastered by Alan Elliott (2019)
I know few women who haven’t blared out a version of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Freedom’, even if in the privacy of their own shower. The songs of the late superstar have captivated, empowered and emboldened generations and undoubtedly will go on doing so.
The film ‘Amazing Grace’ brings us two treasures. The first is the rediscovered footage of Franklin recording her gospel LP, ‘Amazing Grace’ at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles, accompanied by the Southern California Community Choir. ‘Amazing Grace’ brings us this footage ‒ documentary-style ‒ so that you’ll feel you are in this modest church in 1972, listening with a live congregation, while Franklin’s voice both tenderly and compellingly brings her audience to rapture.
The second treasure is, of course the content of this ecstasy-inducing footage. We are privy to a Gospel concert delivered by one of the 20th century’ most gifted performers, where even the presence of Mick Jagger ‒ an unusually pale face in the predominantly African American congregation ‒ only merited a slight pause in the panning shots round the church. Equal camera time was spent hovering on the ecstatic faces in the congregation.
I’ve never seen such physical and emotional response to music in a religious setting. ‘Amazing Grace’ gave me an unanticipated insight into the empowering tradition of gospel music as well as taking my breath taken away by the beauty and extraordinary scope of Franklin’s voice.
Do go and see ‘Amazing Grace’.
Your spine will tingle
Hail Aretha Franklin (RIP). You are queen.