Why it took 46 years for Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace documentary to be released

Bruce WarrenBlog, Home Row 2

Rolling Stone magazine has a terrific inside story on why it took 46 years for Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace concert to be released as a documentary. Considered to be one of Aretha’s greatest albums, and one of the greatest all time gospel albums, Amazing Grace was shot on video during the live recordings for the record, in January 1972, by Sydney Pollack.

Now, for the first time ever, the documentary has been seen for the very first time, as the film recently made it’s debut at the DOC NYC Film Festival.

Amazing Grace was recorded during two shows – January 13 and 14, 1972 – at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles. The band featured the Rev. James Cleveland, guitarist Cornell Dupree, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie on drums, Chuck Rainey on bass, Ken Lupper on keyboards, Pancho Morales on percussion, Aretha’s fathed Rev. C.L. Franklin on vocals and the Southern Community Choir. It was produced by Jerry Wexler.

During the concerts she performed gospel classics by Clara Ward (“How I Got Over”), and Thomas Dorsey with covers of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Wholy Holy” by Marvin Gaye (“Wholy Holy,” Inez Andrew’s “Mary, Don’t You Weep,” the Rodgers and Hammerstein written “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the timeless title track and other songs.

A myriad of legal, technical and production problems mired the release of the documentary for many years. In this article in Rolling Stone, writer David Browne accounts for many of the challenges that had to be overcome.

Below, watch the trailer for the film, and if you haven’t already done so, listen to the album.

This article was written for WXPN’S GOSPEL ROOTS OF ROCK AND SOUL. GOSPEL ROOTS OF ROCK AND SOUL has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.