In recent weeks thousands of Americans poured into streets demanding racial justice, and last Friday there was another outpouring … of music. Several musicians (including Alicia Keys, Beyoncé and H.E.R.) released songs in honor of Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in America.
One of those songs: a previously-unreleased solo by the late Aretha Franklin, who died in 2018.
"I am so proud hearing Aretha, of course after her passing, really get to work again – taking the lead in what has to be changed," said Clive Davis, Sony Music's chief creative officer, who was a close friend of Franklin's. "It's not just another record we are trying to get through commercially; it is the impact, the relevance of the lyric, the song, and the incomparable performance."
The song, called "Never Gonna Break My Faith," was originally released as a duet between Franklin and Mary J. Blige, for the 2006 movie "Bobby." It won a Grammy the following year. Now, more than a decade later, Davis says it's the perfect time for Franklin's solo recording.
"It was never released. I only really heard the solo version just two weeks ago," Davis said. "And no disrespect to the great, great, great, great Mary J. Blige, there is no one comparable to Aretha Franklin."
The music video juxtaposes footage from the civil rights movement with footage of Black Lives Matter protests. And although the movements have more than a half-century between them, the lyrics about race and unjust killings are relevant to both.
You can lie to a child with a smiling face
Tell me that color ain't about race
You can cast the first stones, you can break my bones
But you're never gonna break
You're never gonna break my faith
Davis said, "I think the song is right on the money. It's not just rah-rah. It's thoughtful, introspective, meaningful, and very relatable to today's world."
"Sunday Morning" producer Sara Kugel asked, "What do you think it is about this moment that's inspiring this outpouring of creativity, especially in music?"
"It is a very challenging time," he replied. "Sometimes a song can be the leader of what triggers action and progress. 'The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind,' 'We shall overcome.' Not just a phrase or a title of a song, but it reflected the determination of many, many people then. And so, sometimes music can just trigger that emotion that gears [us] up to prevail."
And, Davis said, he hopes the late Aretha Franklin's voice can now do the same:
"First of all, there is no question that she would be there at the front, trying to rally everyone of all persuasions that black lives matter," he said. "She was there with Martin Luther King, she was there at the inauguration of Barack Obama. She had been there as our soulful conscience with that incredible voice. There is no question she would be there with a song like this trying to affect people all over the world."
To watch the full music video of Aretha Franklin singing "Never Gonna Break My Faith," click on the video player below:
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Story produced by Sara Kugel and Roman Feeser.