Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight: I, um, can't keep them straight

“My dumb” doesn’t really touch it, but I can’t keep these two legends straight and know little about them. Who is considered the better, more seminal, more powerful or experienced more commercial success?

I just saw a YouTube outtake of Aretha singing “I Say a Little Prayer.” Unbelievable.

Well, Gladys probably edges out Aretha in terms of experience – she’d been winning singing contests since the age of seven and Aretha didn’t start recording until she was 14 – But Aretha is the Queen of Soul for a reason. A better vocalist, easily a more seminal, even prinal R&b and soul performer with a more powerful voice and yes, a bigger commercial success: “Respect” that. The fat lady can sing.

Gladys Knight: a little more pop - y (Midnight Train to Georgia, You’re the Best Thing…) My favorite GK & tP song is her most soulful, least pop-y – her version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”, which is also my favorite of the 3 versions that charted.

Aretha: also went pop, with covers of “I Say a Little Prayer” (Bacharach) and “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” (Carole King), but she is The Queen of Soul. Her early stuff is really old-school down & funky soul, like “Dr Feelgood”, “I Never Loved a Man” and of course, Otis Redding’s “Respect”. And holy shit did she have a vocal range.

Check out her scene in Blues Brothers, leading up to the “Think” number. Pretty good actress, too…I love the “best damned chicken in the state” line.

Carnac the Magnificent!: You need to show a little more R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the Queen.

Aretha has one of the great voices of all time. Gladys is just a successful pop star.


I agree strongly with the title “Queen” for the unmatched Mrs. Franklin, but the performance of “Think” in that movie seemed a little subdued and hurried to me. The recorded versions I’ve heard are so much more dynamic.

I did like her attitude and think she has potential as an actress.

Amazing how we can live on the same planet but different worlds.

I don’t know that much about Gladys Knight but Aretha is the QUEEN OF SOUL!!! Don’t forget it!

I thought I was the only person on the planet to prefer Gladys’s version of Grapevine, even though I think Marvin Gaye had one of the best voices ever. It really is soulful.

I love Gladys and think she’s pretty underrated. I think her voice is strong and sweet and she tells a good story. (And whenever I listen to That’s What Friends Are For I get pissed that she sounds the best, but has the fewest lines to sing.)

But Aretha is the Queen of Soul for a reason. And I haven’t heard a contemporary R&B singer come even close to touching her. Most of them oversing to point where I want to smack them. Aretha gets over twice the emotion with half the notes most people need.

Agree so totally - hers is by far the best rendition of “I Heart it Through the Grapevine” that I’ve ever heard. Marvin Gaye is amazing but his version of that song pales in comparison with Gladys Knight (who else charted with the song, incidentally? I’ve heard any number of musicians do it but I can’t think of another version as well known as Knight or Gaye’s.)

Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Nope, you aren’t alone. I loved Gladys’ version. I’ve seen her in concert and she’s a very good performer.

Gladys Knight is good. Martha Reeves is good. Darlene Love is good. Hell, even Diana Ross could be good.

But Aretha Franklin is in a class by herself.

Gladys can sing the chrome off of a bumper.

Aretha can blow the doors off a tank.

Next question?


One croons, the other belts.

I always detect a much stronger bluesy/gospel feel to Aretha’s voice. I love them both but I love Aretha more.