Skip to content

Aretha Franklin’s 1950s Gospel Album Songs of Faith Is Being Reissued

American soul singer Aretha Franklin, a star on the Atlantic record label. (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)

The character of the late Aretha Franklin‘s legendary voice owed a lot to her upbringing in the Baptist church. Prior to scoring her first major record contract with Columbia in 1960, Franklin’s first recordings were all of gospel repertoire, with her first singles coming out on J-V-B Records in 1956. The songs were recorded live when Franklin was only 14, during a time when Franklin was touring with her father, who was a minister, and performing after his sermons. On the record, she performs solo, accompanying herself on piano.

The full group of nine live recordings from this time period, made in Detroit’s New Bethel Baptist Church in 1956, were released in 1965 by Checker Records as the album Songs of Faith. Now, remastered versions of those lo-fi recordings are being released by Geffen/UMe as Songs of Faith: Aretha Gospel. The album will be released digitally and on both black and (limited-edition) white vinyl on March 22.

A restored version of Franklin’s 1972 live film Amazing Grace—a better-known highlight for Franklin’s gospel singing—is also set to be widely released this year, following a short run in New York City in the fall of last year. Franklin will be honored in a special tribute during the Grammys on Sunday night, featuring performances by Yolanda Adams, Fantasia, and Andra Day.