When the Queen of Soul was booked for a three-night stand (March 5-7, 1971) in San Francisco, the birthplace of the Summer of Love, no one was sure how the crowd would respond. "I wasn't sure how the hippies reacted to me," Aretha Franklin reflected in her 1999 autobiography. And in the words of Franklin's drummer, Bernard Purdie, "She’d been doing what you’d call Vegas-type shows. But this was a whole different audience." She didn't need to worry — the San Francisco audience loved Franklin and her band which featured King Curtis on saxophone and Billy Preston on organ.
They started each night with a spitfire version of "Respect" and remade many rock classics, turning Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water into call-and-response gospel and reworking "Eleanor Rigby" as a funky stomp," according to Rolling Stone.
"It was the most exciting, electrifying show I have ever seen!" shared Gary Fauth in the San Francisco Remembered Facebook group. On the third night, March 7th, Aretha Franklin pulled an "impeccably dressed" man from the audience onto the stage. He was dressed in "charcoal from head do toe" and his eyes were "obscured by wrap-around dark glasses," The Chronicle reported in a review of the show.
Within seconds the huge crowd recognized Ray Charles and he joined Franklin in the legendary 9-minute rendition of "Spirit in the Dark." (The two had allegedly met for the first time earlier that day.)
Jim Reiter was also there that night. Charles "had been performing over in Berkeley and came into the city to catch the end of Aretha's show," Reiter recalled. "He and Aretha whipped the crowd into a frenzy," he added.
Rolling Stone included the performance in their list of the 50 greatest concerts of the last 50 years, and The Chronicle called it one one of the truly thrilling events of pop music annals. "She turned the thing into church," Charles said later. "I mean, she's on fire."
In honor of the 50th Anniversary of this incredible moment in history, we're releasing an officially licensed 7 color screenprint by Orlando Arocena (Mexifunk), who created a beautiful piece of art worthy of the Queen of Soul!