Aretha Franklin's Gospel Documentary 'Amazing Grace' Is A Profound Gift [Review]
Forty-seven years ago — at the height of her career, Aretha Franklin traveled to Los Angeles where she created the soul-searing gospel album, Amazing Grace. It would become the best-selling gospel album of all time and the best-selling album of the soul singer's career. For two nights in January 1972, in the unassuming New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles —Franklin would take her audience to church —literally. Accompanied by her four-piece band, Reverend James Cleveland, and the Southern California Community Choir, Franklin returned to her gospel roots, effortlessly belting out sublime renditions of hymns like “Never Grow Old” and “Precious Memories.”
Amazing Grace was always supposed to be more than an album. Franklin assumed it would be a part of cinematic history. Warner Bros. had hired filmmaker Sydney Pollack to capture the album's recording on film, but the movie was left incomplete and did not see the light of day until now. Franklin had the film shelved after being dissatisfied with the finished product, and it is only after her death—with her family’s blessing—that Amazing Grace is getting the audience that it deserves.
Much more than a music documentary, Amazing Grace is a historical moment and an heirloom to Black history. Amazing Grace acts as an entry point into the historic Black church—a throughline for many members of the Black community—inviting its audience into the core of the institution to seek God, a higher power, or some sense of solace and understanding through Aretha Franklin’s voice.
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