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Rolling Stone crowns Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ as the greatest song of all time

Rolling Stone names Aretha Franklin’s iconic no. 1 hit single Respect as the greatest song of all time.

Put some respect on her name, because the Queen of Soul’s posthumous achievements keep on coming.

America’s leading publication on music and popular culture, Rolling Stone, has updated their list of ‘The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time’. First conceived in 2004, the list became a staple of the media outlet’s website, having been “viewed hundreds of millions of times on … [their] site”.

Aretha Franklin
Photo: NBC/Getty Images

In the seventeen years since it was first published, the music industry has undergone a drastic change. From streaming platforms to established artists becoming legends amidst newer rising stars, Rolling Stone acknowledged that it was time for their list to be updated.

“[A] lot has changed since 2004; back then the iPod was relatively new, and Billie Eilish was three years old. So, we’ve decided to give the list a total reboot,” the website reads.

“To create the new version of the RS 500 we convened a poll of more than 250 artists, musicians, and producers — from Angelique Kidjo to Zedd, Sam Smith to Megan Thee Stallion, M. Ward to Bill Ward — as well as figures from the music industry and leading critics and journalists. They each sent in a ranked list of their top 50 songs, and we tabulated the results.”

The new data concluded that Aretha Franklin’s Respect is the greatest song of all time. The legend’s version is actually a cover that was written and first performed by the late Otis Redding – a singer-songwriter who is credited as a leading voice in America’s rhythm and blues and soul music scenes.

Redding’s version was a product of its time, one which takes a decidedly male perspective of the now feminist anthem.

“Hey, little girl, you’re sweeter than honey / And I wanna give you all of my money,” Redding sings on his rendition.

Aretha Franklin
Photo: rollingstone.com

In an interview with Elle, Franklin revealed that she modernised Redding’s track by changing lyrics and adding back-up singers to it.

“[After hearing Redding’s version on the radio] I loved it. I loved it! I felt I could do something different with it, and my sister Carolyn, who was an RCA recording artist, and I got together on the background,” Franklin said.

The famous “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” line was added to inject some “female power” into the track – a decision which (according to Rolling Stone) allowed the song to eventually lay the groundwork for “rock & roll, gospel, and blues to create the model for soul music that artists still look to today”.

Behind the American icon, the list cites the following as the second, third, fourth and fifth greatest songs respectively: Public Enemy’s Fight the Power (1989), Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come (1964), Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone (1965) and Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991).