Bernard Purdie — Song for Aretha
from Soul Is…Pretty Purdie (1972)
As far as tributes go, this one claims the heavyweight title: Bernard Purdie’s ode to Aretha Franklin, for whom he served as musical director from 1970-1975. He’s said that “backing her was like floating in seventh heaven.” His monologue on this track, too, is exploding with Aretha-love:
“There’s a woman.. who brings love and laughter, whenever she sings, to the people standing beneath her. Yes, she gives strength to the weak, whenever she speaks. And her name, her name, her name, is Aretha. Aretha. ARETHA! ARETHA! ARETHA! Cause she’s soul sister number one!”
This track is the most transcendent on the album—there are some other high points, like the breakbeat-fest ‘Heavy Soul Slinger,’ but many of the tunes remind me of checking-into-a-hotel music, not too far afield from the soulful jazz of Purdie’s contemporary, William S. Fischer.
But even if you’ve never heard of Purdie, you’ve probably heard his drumming. Other than Aretha, the acts he’s worked for read like a who’s who of modern music: James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Hall & Oates, Isaac Hayes, Cat Stevens. Beck also sampled this song on his 1996 track ‘Hotwax.’
If this song doesn’t have you shuffling for an Aretha album… nothing will.