Remembering Aretha Franklin: Performing In Amsterdam In 1968

See the Queen Of Soul deliver "Satisfaction," "Chain Of Fools," "Respect" and more.

By Nate Todd Aug 16, 2022 11:50 am PDT

Aretha Franklin sadly died on this date in 2018. Born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, the Detroit-raised Queen Of Soul was 76 years old when she passed away. On April 28, 1968 — nearly 50 years before her death — Franklin appeared at Amsterdam’s storied Concertgebouw as part of her first European tour. In honor of Aretha, JamBase takes a look at the stunning performance as well as some historical context leading up to it.

Franklin’s legendary career has its roots in the gospel tradition, singing at New Bethel Baptist Church where her father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin, was the renowned head pastor. C.L. Franklin also preached on the road and would often take the talented young Aretha with him on his travels to sing. Aretha was essentially a touring artist from the early 1950s onward.

C.L. Franklin’s fame as the man with the “million-dollar voice” achieved him a celebrity status, counting Martin Luther King Jr. as well as musicians Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke among his friends. Cooke and gospel singer Clara Ward acted as mentors to Aretha as she began to navigate the world of rhythm and blues and popular music in the 1960s.

1968 was a particularly violent and turbulent year in America and throughout the world. The Vietnam War was escalating rapidly. On April 4, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis. Aretha sang at his funeral. Not long after she embarked on her first European tour.

Despite the world seemingly coming apart, and not unrelated to the chaos of the time, music was flourishing. People either needed a distraction or a cause, and music provided both. 1968 saw Aretha’s career flourishing as well. She had a new, historic contract with Atlantic Records and the first half of ‘68 saw her releasing two landmark records, Lady Soul and Aretha Now , which contained some of her most iconic songs like “Chain Of Fools,” “Respect,” “Think,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and more.

While Franklin would perform most of the aforementioned songs during her April 28, 1968 appearance at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw — a venue with some of the best acoustics in Europe — she opened up the show with a rousing performance of The Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” during which the ecstatic audience tossed flowers.

Franklin’s accompaniment consisted of a vocal group, the Sweet Inspirations, which included her sister, Carolyn Franklin, along with Charnissa Jones and Wyline Ivey. Her stage band consisted of drummer George Davidson, bassist Roderick Hicks, guitarist Jerry Weaver, pianist Gary Illingworth and a horn section of Miller Brisker, Donald “Buck” Waldon, David Squire, Russell Conway, Ron Jackson, “Little” John Wilson, Rene Pitts and Donald Townes, who also conducted the ensemble.

Following “Satisfaction,” Aretha led her band through “Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream,” “Soul Serenade” and “Groovin’” ahead of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” Franklin also included “Come Back Baby” before sitting down at the piano for the bluesy “Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business).” She would stay at the piano for “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone” and “Good To Me As I Am Good To You.” Aretha then returned to center stage to close out the concert with hits like “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” “Chain Of Fools” and “Respect.”

To remember Aretha Franklin, watch her perform at the Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw in 1968 below:

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Aretha Franklin (See 21 videos)
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