Deep Dive: Aretha Franklin, SPARKLE
Itâs National Womenâs History Month, and if youâve been checking out Rhino.com since March began, then you know that weâre making a concerted effort to utilize a number of our regular features as opportunities to spotlight female artists. Today, weâre doing a deep dive into an album featuring music from the 1976 film Sparkle, but itâs not exactly a soundtrack. Yes, the music, which was written and produced by Curtis Mayfield, was in the film, but the vocals â which, as you might expect on an Aretha Franklin album, are performed by Aretha Franklin â were not.
Confused? Thatâs not surprising, but weâll try to get you straightened out, starting by giving you a frame of reference to the film by offering up the trailer.
How about that narration by Casey Kasem? Thatâs some sweet, sweet stuff.
It may be surprising to some to see Philip Michael Thomas as the male lead, but heâd been working in films since 1972âs Come Back, Charleston Blue. Similarly, it mightâve been strange to see Irene Cara as the filmâs female lead, since she first came on most peopleâs radar with her theme song for Fame, which didnât come out until 1980, but sheâd actually been working regularly as an actress throughout the entirety of the â70s, even being named one of Screen Worldâs âPromising New Actors of 1976.â
As for the soundtrack, however, the decision was made to release it without the lead vocals from the original songs, instead using the instrumental tracks and backing vocals but substituting Franklin as the lead singer. Not that there were a lot of people complaining: the album hit #18 on the Billboard 200 and topped the R&B Albums chart. The film itself, however, wasnât nearly as successful, doing poorly from both a commercial and critical standpoint, but at least weâve still got the album.