Aretha Franklin recorded for Columbia Records from 1960-1966, never charting higher on the Hot 100 than #37. In 1967, she signed with Atlantic and released "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)" as her debut single with the label, and it became the first Top 10 hit for the Queen of Soul.
The song was written by Ronnie Shannon, and her recording of the blues-based ballad established the singer as a superstar. Shannon also wrote Franklin's "Baby, I Love You."
In The Billboard Book of #1 R&B Hits, Shannon explained: "The idea was to write an original soul message. Not knowing exactly where to begin, I decided to let vivid imagination be my guide."
More than any other artist, Aretha Franklin is known for bringing the Muscle Shoals Sound to the forefront, even though this was the only song she actually recorded in Muscle Shoals. The session took place at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler sent Aretha to record there, as he and engineer Tom Dowd were very impressed with the musicians, who played on the hits "When A Man Loves A Woman" by Percy Sledge and "Mustang Sally" by Wilson Pickett.
They pulled off the session, but Aretha's husband/manager Ted White had beef with one of the horn players, resulting in a legendary incident that David Hood recalled in our 2012 interview. Hood became the bass player in the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, but at this session, he was playing trombone. Said Hood, "Ken Laxton, the trumpet player, was making remarks to Aretha that he thought were kind of cool and hip and all that. And Aretha and her husband Ted thought, 'Who is this white guy talking smart and trying to jive with us?' And it was taken wrong, I think. I don't think he was really trying to cause problems. But it was taken wrong, and people were drinking on the session - not me, but some people were - and it just got blown out of proportion and it ended up in a big argument and ended the session. So that's why Aretha didn't record in Muscle Shoals after that. She left."
Aretha left and the song was completed in New York. The sound was a perfect fit for Aretha, and Jerry Wexler decided that instead of trying to send the singer back to Muscle Shoals, he would bring the musicians to New York to work with her. Wexler had the Muscle Shoals players Tommy Cogbill (bass), Roger Hawkins (drums), Spooner Oldham (keyboards), and Jimmy Johnson (rhythm guitar) fly to New York and complete the album with Aretha, which went so well that they repeated the process for her next three albums, with the guys traveling up from Alabama each time.
These were Aretha's seminal recordings, and as she shot to fame, other musicians sought out her sound and commissioned these Muscle Shoals musicians, who established their own studios - Muscle Shoals Sound Studios - in 1969. Bob Seger, Paul Simon, Rod Stewart and The Rolling Stones all recorded there. Stewart, and many of the other acts who came through, was shocked to find that the Aretha Franklin Soul sound he traveled so far to get was created by a group of white guys.
In this song Aretha plays a victim, somebody helplessly attached to a no-good, heartbreaking, cheating liar. On her next single "Respect," Franklin took on an entirely different role, that of a sexually confident woman. The Muscle Shoals rhythm section backed Aretha on that one as well.
This is ranked #186 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
This was used in several movies, including The Commitments (1991) Night and the City (1992), Love Potion No. 9 (1992), Bound (1996), and Steal This Movie (2000).
This has been covered by Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson, and Alicia Keys. Soul singer Spencer Wiggins recorded it as "I Never Loved A Woman" in 1969, while Aerosmith opted for "Never Loved A Girl" on their 2004 blues covers album Honkin' On Bobo. Garth Brooks went with "I Never Loved Someone the Way I Love You" on his chart-topping 2013 compilation, Blame it All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences.
The song is in an unusual tempo and the Muscle Shoals musicians struggled at first to come up with a hook and an arrangement. David Hood recalled to Uncut magazine: "They had no ideas for the song at the beginning. They worked on it for a while. The horns were just sitting back - we were waiting for them to get something together so we could do our bit. After a couple of hours Spooner hits on a Wurlitzer piano lick. He found that little opening riff, and it all fell together quickly after that, first or second take."
Spooner Oldham added: "I created that riff for the intro and throughout the song. Everybody was tuning up, getting the volume set, we were about to try the song. Everyone was sort of scratching their head, waiting for somebody to do something. Nobody had anything to offer, really. I was in the room with the others but I was off by myself, thinking about what I'd heard, and in my mind I started playing that riff - to myself, really. As soon as I got started on that, I heard (co-composers) Chips Moman and Dan Penn say 'Spooner's got it.' The band started listening to me and playing along, and that's the way it got started. Seen as we got it started it was a sure thing, everybody felt comfortable playing it."
Jennifur Sun from RamonaThem cats from Muscle Shoals rock.
Brenda from Idaho Falls, IdWhere are your comments ya all? This song and this artist should inspire you, move you, and groove you. This particular song, in my humble opinion, is the epitome of soul. If Aretha can inspire the like of Whitney, we should give her more than a glance.