About “Amazing Grace”:
For two days in January 1972, Aretha Franklin sang at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles while tape recorders and film cameras rolled. Everyone there knew the event had the potential to be historic: five years after ascending to soul royalty and commercial success, Franklin was publicly returning to her religious roots. Her influential minister father stood by her on the pulpit. Her mentor, Clara Ward, sat in the pews. Franklin responded to the occasion with the performance of her life and the resulting double album became a multi-million seller—even without any trademark hit singles. But that was just one part of the story.
Franklin’s warm inimitable voice, virtuoso jazz-soul instrumental group and Rev. James Cleveland’s inventive choral arrangements transformed the course of gospel. Through new interviews, musical and theological analyses as well as archival discoveries, this book sets the scene, traces the recording’s traditional origins and pop infusions and describes the album’s enduring impact.
“Aaron Cohen’s study of Amazing Grace is rich in intelligence, scholarship, and sensitivity. A great musical work has been put in context. Praise Aretha! Praise God!”
– David Ritz, co-author of Aretha: From These Roots and Brother Ray: Ray Charles
“When the church’s prodigal daughter returned, she blessed it with the biggest-selling gospel album in history. Aaron Cohen captures the cultural and political implications of this astonishing event. He also pays homage to the musicians and arrangers who supported Lady Soul. A joyful noise, indeed.” — Anthony Heilbut, gospel producer and author of The Gospel Sound: Good News In Bad Times.
Aaron is the reviews editor of DownBeat and has written about music for the Chicago Tribune, Rolling Stone, Oxford American and other publications. He is also an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award recipient.