Aretha Franklin at her amazing best

Amazing Grace

Documentary film by Sydney Pollack & Alan Elliott

Starring Aretha Franklin

In cinemas

While it was Afro-American blues music that grew into rock and roll, soul music sprang from the Black tradition of gospel churches. Aretha Franklin was undoubtedly the greatest soul singer of the '60s and this film shows that she never left the church behind.

In 1972, Franklin recorded a live gospel album in the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. The performance was conducted as a church service directed by the Reverend James Cleveland, himself a notable Gospel star, with a participatory congregation.

Her record company hired film director Sydney Pollack to film the entire two-night event. Unfortunately, he failed to use a clapper board to allow the sound track to be synced to the film, rendering it useless. Luckily, using modern technology, Alan Elliott has been able to restore it. 

Backed and urged to greater heights by the Southern California Community Choir, Aretha Franklin is a wonder. She slips into an ecstatic state where she serves as a channel for the congregation, James Cleveland and the choir as they achieve unity of spirit.

You can see how such churches were the seed bed for the Black civil rights movement.

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