The never-before-seen movie featuring Aretha Franklin recording the most successful gospel album of all time, Amazing Grace. Amazing Grace is crafted from never-before-seen footage originally captured in 1972.
AMAZING GRACE – THE ALBUM
Atlantic Records was the pioneering home of Ray Charles, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Otis Redding, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Roberta Flack, John Coltrane, and scores of other great Jazz, R&B and Pop artists. The Coasters, The Drifters, Ruth Brown, Ray Charles, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett head the list of African-American stars that the label marketed during the 1950s and 1960s. Aretha Franklin had originally been signed to Columbia Records by John Hammond, who also signed Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. When her Columbia career failed to ignite, Atlantic Records signed her, and under the guidance of Jerry Wexler, Franklin’s career was transformed. Starting in 1967, her string of hits – “I Never Loved A Man”, “Respect”, “Baby I Love You”, “Chain of Fools”, “Think”, “Don’t Play That Song” – kept Atlantic Records at the top of both the Pop and R&B charts. Franklin’s success disguised the fact that the label was losing touch with its R&B heritage following the death of Otis Redding and Ray Charles’ defection to a rival company. Love of Soul Music, from the Supremes to Al Green, had united Americans across racial lines.
However, by the early 1970s, the Civil Rights movement had fractured coupled with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. This led to the growth of the Black Power movement and a growing alienation of African Americans – and their music – from the white mainstream culture. Labels, like Atlantic Records (which became part of Warner Communications by 1970), saw their future more and more in the exploding market for white rock groups and singer-songwriters. By 1971, Aretha Franklin was known as the Queen of Soul. In the culmination of five years of chart-topping hits, she and her producer, Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records, decided her next recording would take her back to the music of her youth, to the world of American Gospel music.
Amazing Grace was not intended as a swan song, but it would turn out to be an elegiac moment in American musical history as well as a salute to the gospel heritage that had transformed American music in the 1960s.