“We goin’ ridin’ on the freeway of love”: Night Flight remembers Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul

By on August 27, 2018

“She was the daughter of a preacher and by the late Sixties Aretha Franklin was the undisputed Queen of Soul,” says Night Flight’s Pat Prescott in her introduction to our Video Profile: Aretha Franklin, which originally aired in 1987.

Our profile — featuring several of her memorable ’80s-era music videos, including “Rock-A-Lott,” “Freeway Of Love,” “Another Night,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and her duet with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” Franklin’s only other #1 Pop chart hit (the other was “Respect”) — is now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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The funeral for Aretha Franklin — who passed away on August 16, 2018, at age 76 — will be held this Friday, August 31st, in Detroit, Michigan.

The Memphis-born singer was a longtime resident of Bloomfield Hills, a Detroit suburb, where she’d purchased a huge white colonial-style home tucked away on three acres.

We’ve read that over one hundred pink Cadillacs — a nod to her 1985 hit, “Freeway of Love” (“We goin’ ridin’ on the freeway of love in my pink Cadillac”) — will line Seven Mile Road, from the private memorial services at Greater Grace Temple to Woodlawn Cemetery, where she’ll be entombed.

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The classic black & white video, directed by Brian Grant, features appearances by her producer/drummer, Narada Michael Walden, Clarence Clemons on tenor sax, and future “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson on synth bass.

Walden had originally written the song to record himself before re-writing the lyrics for Franklin to sing.

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“Freeway of Love”: Narada Michael Walden, Aretha Franklin, Brian Grant, and Clarence Clemons

Franklin — wearing her hair short in a spiky punk-styled cut — is seen at Doug’s Body Shop in Ferndale, with its car-themed décor and booths made from the interiors of classic cars.

Aretha is shown working at an automobile factory, where we see shots of cars — Ford Mustangs and then-current Cadillac Cimarrons — being assembled.

There’s also shots of the headquarters of General Motors, the Ford Rouge plant, and the giant Uniroyal tire in Allen Park, Michigan.

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Franklin’s pink Cadillac is seen, in color, with a Michigan license plate reading “RESPECT,” her 1967 hit song.

The car, according to Franklin in Mark Bego’s Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul, was actually Jayne Mansfield’s old Cadillac, loaned to the production by an antique car club.

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“Freeway of Love,” released in June of 1985, was Franklin’s twentieth single to reach the top of the soul music charts, spending nineteen weeks on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart, peaking at #3.

It also spent five weeks at #1 on the R&B chart, returned her to the Top Ten on Billboard‘s Adult Contemporary chart, and won her 1985’s “Best Female R&B Vocal Performance Grammy.”

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“Freeway of Love” proved to be such a huge hit that on July 24, 1985, a section of Detroit’s Washington Boulevard was renamed after the song.

She was later hired to endorse several products in television commercials for Coca-Cola, Dial soap and Chevrolet’s national “Heartbeat of America” campaign, which began airing commercials in October 1988.

Franklin, for what it’s worth, actually drove a white station wagon at the time.

Read more about a few of Aretha Franklin’s ’80s videos below.

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Also featured in our Video Profile: Aretha Franklin, was her video for “Another Night,” her fourth single released from her 1985 album Who’s Zoomin’ Who?,  the thirteen studio album of her career, released on July 9, 1985.

The video — directed by Jay Dubin — was lensed at Club Taboo, which Franklin co-owned, located on Woodbridge Street, just blocks from the Detroit River.

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You’ll also see the video Franklin made for her cover of the Rolling Stones’ 1968 classic “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” the title song for the 1986 movie of the same name.

Franklin’s version wasn’t included on the film’s soundtrack album, but can be heard over the movie’s end credits. At Richards’ request, Franklin plays the piano on the tune.

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Both of the Stones guitarists, Keith Richards (who produced the track) and Ronnie Wood, and Whoopie Goldberg, who stars in the movie, both appear in the video.

“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” would become the first single from her 1986 Arista album Aretha, featuring cover art by Andy Warhol, his final work before his death in 1987.

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Her Aretha album also featured her duet with George Michael, ” I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” which would end up being her only #1 single in the United Kingdom.

The single, released on January 23rd, 1987, was also a #1 Pop hit in the U.S., and earned them both a Grammy Award for “Best R&B Performance – Duo or Group with Vocals.”

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The video — directed by Andy Morahan — features Franklin and Michael standing before a large video screen, which at one point shows another great soul music pairing, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, as well as footage from both Franklin’s and Michael’s earlier careers.

Finally, we should mention that the first video you’ll see is one of the strangest videos of the 1980s, the Steve Barron-directed video for “Rock-a-Lott,” which features Claymation figures, including Aretha and her backing band, who live inside a boom box.

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This footage is mixed with film shot in NYC’s Central Park and the roller-skating scenes were filmed in Washington Square Park.

There are shout-outs cameos from Rodney Dangerfield, actors Cynthia Gibb, Mark Hamill, and Twin Peaks veteran Ian Buchanan; and the rap group Whodini, Tony Bennett, and Whitney Houston.

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R.I.P. Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, and Night Flight fans, please do check out our 1987 Video Profile: Aretha Franklin, which you’ll find streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.