Fifty years ago today, Aretha Franklin released her 14th studio album, Lady Soul. This 1968 record, her third release on Atlantic Records, helped solidify the singer as one of pop music’s biggest forces and will permanently have a place on many “best albums of all time” lists.
Lady Soul delivered some of Franklin’s biggest hits ever, including “Chain of Fools,” “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone,” and “(You Make me Feel Like) a Natural Woman,” all made classic by Franklin’s powerhouse vocals. It’s a sound and a voice that will stand as one of history’s best.
While it’s hard to replicate the soulful magic of Franklin’s vocals, many artists have tried over the years, and “(You Make me Feel Like) a Natural Woman” is one of her most covered songs. The moving ballad, written by husband-and-wife team Gerry Goffin and Carole King, oozes sensuality, romance and confidence thanks to Franklin’s heart-filled performance.
Below are some of the best and most notable attempts to take on one of Franklin’s most popular songs.
Peggy Lee (1969)
Shortly after Franklin put out her single, jazz artist Peggy Lee released her own version of the song. Although it doesn't soar to the same heights as Franklin's cut, Lee does infuse it with her own personal flair and the final moments of the song strike a particularly satisfying note.
Carole King (1971)
King, who co-wrote the song, recorded it on her own in 1971 for her seminal album, Tapestry; a take that's just as classic as the original.
Rod Stewart (1974)
One of the few men to cover this song, Rod Stewart flips the tables (and the song title) on his Smiler cut, "(You Make me Feel Like) a Natural Man."
Bonnie Tyler (1978)
Bonnie Tyler rocks out in this anthemic take, complete with more guitars, drums and her stunningly raspy voice.
Whitney Houston (1990s)
In the early '90s, Whitney Houston covered Franklin's hit during her Bodyguard World Tour. She would often dedicate this song to Franklin and/or her own husband, Bobby Brown, as seen in the particular example below. An icon in her own right, Houston's performance packs a powerful punch that's almost comparable to Franklin's.
Céline Dion (1995)
Canadian star Céline Dion does her signature vocal acrobatics throughout her cover of the song, which was recorded for the Tapestry Revisited: A Tribute to Carole King album. She definitely injects the track with her own personality, whether you think that works or not.
Mary J. Blige (1995)
R&B songstress Mary J. Blige put out her own version of the song the same year as Dion. Blige stays true to Franklin's recording, but re-arranges some of the harmonies near the end to give it a playful kick.
Kelly Clarkson (2002)
Before she was rocking her own hits, Kelly Clarkson cut her teeth on American Idol, trying to win over the judges with ambitious renditions of hit songs, as she did with this breakout performance of "(You Make me Feel Like) a Natural Woman." She goes all out, too, hitting a note so high that it earned her a standing ovation. Even Simon Cowell admitted that she was a "great singer" after seeing that.
Pop star Adele strips down Franklin's song in this acoustic take, allowing for her voice to truly shine.
Alicia Keys (2014)
It's easy to go for the big notes in "(You Make me Feel Like) a Natural Woman," but something that's much more difficult is capturing Franklin's soulful ease. It's something that Alicia Keys best captured at a Carole King tribute show in 2014, feeling so moved by the words she's singing that she gets up off her piano and dances around the stage as she shouts, "feeling so good, baby, yeah!"
What’s your favourite cover of “(You Make me Feel Like) a Natural Woman”? Share it with us on @CBCMusic.
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