The Brilliant Complexity Embedded in the Simple I IV V Chord Progression of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’

In memory of the late, great Aretha Franklin, the doodling, fast talking and extremely knowledgeable music theorist 12Tone musically breaks down “Respect” one of the Queen of Soul’s most iconic songs. He illustrates how the syncopated bass line, the use of the blue note, the dischordant sax solo, the background singers and of course, Franklin’s incredible voice all add brilliant complexity to the otherwise uncomplicated I IV V chord progression of the song.

In the history of popular music, there have been few voices as powerful or as memorable as Aretha Franklin’s. The music world lost a true legend last month, and I wanted to pay tribute to the Queen of Soul by analyzing one of her most famous and enduring songs, Respect. It’s a rousing anthem that feels like it goes on much longer than its two and a half minute run-time, and despite (or perhaps because of) its fairly simple harmony, it remains iconic to this day.