The title says it all: The Queen of Soul is in love and she's letting everyone know it. Franklin had the most success with the romantic number, peaking at #19 on the Hot 100 and securing the #1 spot on the R&B chart. But the single first debuted in 1967 after Bobby Womack wrote it for Wilson Pickett, who took it to #45 on the Hot 100 and #4 on the R&B chart.
Womack wrote the song as a last-ditch effort to salvage his reputation. He'd been shunned from the music community when he wed his mentor Sam Cooke's widow, Barbara, just three months after the soul singer's untimely death in 1964. "I was getting static from all around the world," Womack told music producer Leo Sacks. "It was devastating. Radio people were throwing my records in the garbage. I started wearing shades just to hide my pain. I didn't want you to look into my eyes, that's how hurt I was. But, I wanted everyone to know how I felt. That I loved Barbara. That Sam was my partner. That I was in living hell." He continued: "Then someone said, 'Pickett's your ticket. Channel your energies through him,' and so I wrote 'I'm in Love.'"
Womack recalled playing the demo for Pickett: "Pickett ran around the room screaming 'Womack! You're crazy! All this hurt comin' out of you! I'm gonna tell this story!' He sang it with the feeling I wanted, of someone who was crying out, because he knew my situation."
Womack, who backed the singer on guitar, also recorded the song a year after Pickett's version hit the charts. Both singers used the same Memphis studio and the same crew, including Reggie Young on guitar, Bobby Wood on piano, Bobby Emmons on organ, and Gene Chrisman on drums.
Womack's marriage to Barbara didn't last. She filed for divorce in 1970 after she discovered him in bed with her and Cooke's 18-year-old daughter, Linda. In a bizarre twist, Linda went on to marry Womack's younger brother Cecil, and the couple formed the R&B duo Womack and Womack.
The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section was typically flown in from Alabama to Atlantic's New York studios to back Aretha on her early hits, but producers Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin gave the Southern ballad a sparkling Manhattan makeover. Instead of recording at Atlantic, they set up at A&R Studios with a group of New York musicians, including Stanley Clarke on bass, Dave Spinozza and Cornell Dupree on guitars, Bob James on keyboards, and Rick Marotta on drums, with orchestral arrangements by Billy Eaton. "It was obvious we wanted to have a slightly different sound," Mardin explained to Billboard.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers recorded this in concert in the '80s and included their version on the 2009 compilation The Live Anthology.
Around the time Pickett's version hit the charts, Womack was in the studio with Aretha as one of the guitarists on her 1968 album Lady Soul.
Aretha's version was used in the 1997 movie Sprung, starring Tisha Campbell-Martin and Rusty Cundieff.