Who Wrote the Historic Song “Respect”?

We can all hear it right now: Aretha Franklin, one of the greatest singers of all time, singing, R-E-S-P-E-C-T find out what it means to me

Videos by American Songwriter

But did you know that the original version of the song was recorded by Otis Redding?

Let’s dive into that and the origin of the song.

Otis Redding and Unknown History

First recorded by iconic soul singer Otis Redding, “Respect” was originally released in 1965. The song was a single from Redding’s third studio LP, Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul, featuring a triumphant, horn-driven opening with the singer’s signature, elastic voice.

But, to date, no one is sure who wrote the song, itself.

[RELATED: 5 Deep Cuts From Aretha Franklin That You Should Be Listening To]

According to lore, the song, as a ballad, was brought to Redding by artist Speedo Sims, who was set to record it with his group, the Singing Demons. Artist Percy Welch has said that guitarist Bobby Smith wrote the song originally in his studio in Macon, Georgia.

Either way, Redding built on Sims’ version, rewriting the lyrics, speeding up the tempo, and adding his own arrangement. Sims was set to record the song at the Alabama music studio, Muscle Shoals, but a quality offering wasn’t tracked. So, Redding decided to take matters into his own hands and sing the tune himself. Sims obliged, thinking he would get credit, but that never took place.

Steve Cropper produced Redding’s version and played the instruments for the song, along with Williams Bell and Earl Sims.

Redding’s version centers on a domestic relationship in which the singer goes off on his own at times but expects to come home to his woman, who had better have respect for him upon his return. That “respect” may be in terms of sexual behavior. Just give me some respect! Redding sings, likely meaning some loving.

Aretha Franklin

Two years after Redding’s original release, Aretha Franklin covered the song, adding to it her own arrangement. The song became her signature hit and even more successful than Redding’s version. Today, like with Witney Houston, Dolly Parton, and “I Will Always Love You,” the song is now associated with Franklin much more than Redding.

Franklin’s version offers listeners a different musical arrangement and a few lyric changes. Her rendition is centered on gender roles, largely, whereas Redding’s focused more on romantic and sexual lines. Franklin’s version has become an anthem for feminism and its “second wave,” which began to rise in the 1970s.

[RELATED: The 22 Best Aretha Franklin Quotes]

Franklin’s offering earned her two Grammy Awards in 1968, for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording, and Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Female. In 2002, the Library of Congress inducted the song into the National Recording Registry.

Franklin recorded the song during a session booked by legendary producer Jerry Wexler. First, she laid down the song, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” then followed by “Do Right Woman. Do Right Man.” Then came “Respect,” a song that Franklin had performed often at live shows.

Gender Roles

Whereas Redding wanted “respect” and affection from his woman in the song, Franklin wanted a different kind of respect from her man in the song. Respect as in dignity. In this way, her version flipped the gender understanding that the original version laid out with Franklin playing piano on it.

Franklin worked out those changes with her musical sisters, Erma and Carolyn (this moment can be seen in the recent Franklin biopic, Respect, starring Jennifer Hudson). They sang the refrain Sock it to me.

In the end, “Respect” was recorded on Valentine’s Day, 1967. It was co-produced by Arif Martin, who told Rolling Stone of the tracking day, “I have been in many studios in my life, but there was never a day like that. It was like a festival. Everything worked just right.”


Though Franklin’s version is more about general respect than sexual appetites, her version does include the refrain, Take care of TCB! While “TCB” is an abbreviation for “Taking care of business,” that phrase, at the time in the American Black community, did have a sexual connotation.

[RELATED: The Meaning Behind Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”]

The message, along with Franklin’s inclusion of the recreation R-E-S-P-E-C-T, were later included in Reddings’ live performances of the song, even though they were not present in his original recording.


Franklin’s “Respect” was released on her breakthrough debut LP, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. Ever since then, she’s been an icon.

Photo by Ross Marino/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Lainey Wilson Leads 2023 ‘CMT Music Awards’ Nominees