Amazing Grace was originally recorded in 1972 and is directed by Alan Elliot and Sydney Pollack (Tootsie, Out of Africa).
“Tonight, I would like you to receive the first lady of music, Miss Aretha Franklin..”
In 1972, Aretha Franklin, the undisputed Queen of Soul, brought producer Jerry Wexler, her backup singers, and the legendary Atlantic Records rhythm section to The New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts to record an album of gospel music before an enthusiastic live audience. The result, “Amazing Grace”, went on to become the top-selling gospel record of all time, the biggest album of Aretha Franklin’s career, and one of her most beloved works.
But even as the album gained fans around the world, few realised that those inspirational sessions had not only been recorded, they had been filmed by a camera crew led by Oscar winning filmmaker Sydney Pollack.
Pollack and his team spent two nights capturing Franklin at the height of her powers, as she thrilled a shouting and dancing audience that included Franklin’s father, Reverend C.L. Franklin, gospel legends Clara Ward and Mother Ward of the Ward Family Singers, Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts, and the members of The New Temple Missionary Baptist Church. But due to technical problems, and conflicts over rights, their film has never been seen. Until now.
Watching this film, it’s not at all surprising the level of success of the album, chemistry like this doesn’t come along very often. What also makes it stand out is it’s simplicity. It is not weighed down by sentimental interviews or voice overs or commentary, it is quite simply two amazing concerts.
Brimming over with dancing, singing and unbridled joy, this is a must watch for Aretha Franklin fans and indeed music fans in general.
“We want you tonight to be a part of this session, we want you to, you know, let the folk know you’re here..”
Amazing Grace is available to buy now on DVD and Blu-ray.