There are going to be a lot of people sharing their favorite Aretha Franklin performances over the next few weeks, which is sort of like talking about your favorite star in the night sky. Every performance Franklin, who passed away Thursday at the age of 76, gave during her career was as perfect as a song can be, whether it was her iconic “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” or a surprise, stand-in performance of “Nessun Dorma” which she delivered with 20 minutes of prep time.
But for our money, may we submit this astounding, live, 10-minute performance of “Amazing Grace.” It was recorded at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles for an album of the same name, which is the highest-selling gospel album of all time. Sydney Pollack filmed the whole thing, though the footage has never been released, but we have the audio, if “audio” is even the right word for what sounds more like a miracle.
Franklin’s matchless talent elevates a song even as timeless as this one, one you’ve heard thousands of times, to something approaching rapture. I’ve listened to it three times today and cried each one.