Back in 1972, 29-year old Aretha Franklin decided she wanted to record a live gospel album at the New Temple Baptist Missionary Church in Watts, California. After two evenings of singing and recording, Franklin produced the best selling gospel album in history: Amazing Grace. What most people did not know was that these two evenings were filmed by a young, up-and-coming director named Sydney Pollack with a small crew armed with 16mm cameras. But Pollack and his crew neglected to slate the shots so they had hours of film and hours of sound, but no way to sync them up. Warner Brothers shelved the project and nothing happened for years.

Finally, producer Alan Elliott bought the footage and brought in film editor Alan Elliot to use digital technology to bring the film and sound together. But, then another problem rose up: Aretha Franklin sued Elliott in 2011 for using her likeness without her permission. Then in 2015, Franklin blocked the film from being screened at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals. After Aretha Franklin’s death in 2018, Elliot showed the documentary to Franklin’s family and got their permission to show the film.

Amazing Grace shows Aretha Franklin at the height of her powers. The record that came out of these live recording sessions became Franklin’s best selling album. If you’re a fan of Aretha Franklin this film is a must-see. What is your favorite Aretha Franklin song? GRADE: A
Disc 1
Mary, Don’t You Weep
Precious Lord, Take My Hand/You’ve Got a Friend
Old Landmark
Give Yourself To Jesus
How I Got Over
What a Friend We Have In Jesus
Amazing Grace
Disc 2
Precious Memories
Climbing Higher Mountains
[Remarks By Reverend C. L. Franklin]
God Will Take Care of You
Wholy Holy
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Never Grow Old

12 thoughts on “AMAZING GRACE

  1. Jeff Meyerson

    (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

    Whenever we went to Jazzfest in New Orleans, we always spent a few hours in the Gospel Tent (also the Blues Tent, where we saw George Thorogood the first time). Some great music there!

  2. Patti Abbott

    Saw this and loved it. Although she was very remote from the audience. I wonder if she was like that in soul or pop concerts

    1. george Post author

      Patti, I think Aretha Franklin and everyone in that church was overcome by the extreme heat. Everyone was sweating profusely!

      1. Jeff Meyerson

        To answer Patti, we saw Aretha live once, at Radio City Music Hall, and yes, for the most part she was remote from the audience. But there was an exception, when she spoke about living in Brooklyn when she moved to New York when she was starting out.

      2. george Post author

        Jeff, I haven’t seen Aretha Franklin perform live, but I’ve seen many interviews with Aretha. She was a very reserved person.

    1. george Post author

      Rick, I’m not a big fan of gospel music either, but Aretha’s soulful singing just drew me in. She could sing the phone book and I’d listen.

    2. wolf

      Same here!
      Never understood those gospels – was very astonished that so much pop music (blues e g) was based on that kind of religious stuff …


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