Aretha Franklin won Grammy for song recorded at South Florida studio

'Queen of Soul' picked up 6th straight Grammy for 'Young, Gifted and Black'

By Peter Burke - Managing Editor, Todd Tongen - Anchor/Reporter

NORTH MIAMI, Fla. - Aretha Franklin, who died Thursday at the age of 76, has a special place in South Florida history.

The "Queen of Soul" may best be known for her 1967 Grammy Award-winning hit song "Respect," but it was the title track from her 20th studio album that won her the sixth of eight straight Grammys for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

That album, "Young, Gifted and Black," was recorded at Criteria Studios (now known as the Hit Factory Criteria Miami) in North Miami.

Franklin won in the now-discontinued category for the song from the 1972 album.

Associated Press

Vocalist Aretha Franklin sings into a microphone on Jan. 28, 1972.

The studio was a popular spot for many well-known artists under the Atlantic Records label. The Allman Brothers, the Eagles, Jimmy Buffett, Eric Clapton and Fleetwood Mac were just some of the musicians to record there during the 1970s.

"Young, Gifted and Black" was a cover of Nina Simone's "To Be Young, Gifted and Black," originally recorded and released in 1969.

Brothers Howard and Ron Albert were sound engineers on many of Franklin's hits and they have nothing but respect for the "Queen of Soul" and her talent.

"You know it is special -- that something special is happening and everybody's on their game. Everybody is ready for it," Ron Albert said. "The energy in the room is so incredible. You feel this magical experience."

"She is a fantastic, fantastic piano player, and I don't think we did two or three takes on any given song," Howard Albert said. 

In 1971 and 1972, Franklin spent plenty of time at the South Florida recording studio, and it paid off with gold records and Grammys. 

The Albert brothers said Franklin loved an Italian restaurant in the area called Marcella's. 

"She would order three or four pizzas -- I'm talking about thick pizzas -- and she would put them on the piano," Howard Albert said. "She would have the background singers in the booth over here and the band, and she would do one or two takes and that would be it. But after every take, she would have a couple slices of pizza."

The famous Studio B, where Franklin recorded all that gold, is now a game room, but back in the day, the recording studio was home away from home.

"She hated to fly, so that was always a challenge and she liked home cooked food," Criterion Studios Vice President/General Manager Trevor Fletcher said. "You know, bringing chitlins into the studio and having a mishap and having it spill on the floor, and it smelled like that for a week."

Franklin recorded the "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" album during the height of her success, which began with "Respect." That song, still a staple on oldies radio stations, earned Franklin her first Grammy in the category she dominated for nearly a decade.

She repeated the feat at the 1969 Grammy Awards, taking home the statue for "Chain of Fools." She went on to win for "Share Your Love with Me" in 1970, "Don't Play That Song" in 1971 and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in 1972.

Franklin won twice more after "Young, Gifted and Black," for her performances of "Master of Eyes (The Deepness of Your Eyes)" and "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," before finally yielding to Natalie Cole in 1976.

"Call Me" was another Franklin song recorded at Criteria Studios and released in 1970. The song spent two weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's R&B singles chart and peaked at No. 13 on the Hot 100 in April 1970.

By the end of her illustrious career, Franklin amassed 18 Grammys, the last of which she won in 2008.

Although Detroit was Franklin's home, South Florida will always have a reason to say a little prayer for her.

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