“At that tempo it was like playing a brand-new song. I had to watch Bernard Purdie’s foot!” How Jerry Jemmott stayed on top of Aretha Franklin’s Respect – and recovered from his mistakes – at the Fillmore West in 1971

American bass guitarist Jerry Jemmott during the recording session of Aretha Franklin's studio version of song 'The Weight' which was included in Franklin's album 'This Girl's in Love with You' at Atlantic Studios, New York City, US, 9th January 1969.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In R&B, it’s a time-tested tradition as old as spin moves and shiny suits: An artist records a hit song and immediately plays it at a brighter tempo live. And so it was with Aretha Franklin's Respect, from her desert-island disc Live at Fillmore West, recorded in San Francisco in early March 1971. 

“In addition to us playing all the songs faster, Respect was counted off fast,” said Jerry Jemmott, who sat in the bass chair plucking his sunburst '65 Jazz Bass in front of his Acoustic 360 rig. “It was the opener, and King Curtis and Aretha wanted to get the excitement going. There's a version from Montreux that was up near 200 BPM; I had to watch Bernard Purdie's foot!” 

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Chris Jisi was Contributing Editor, Senior Contributing Editor, and Editor In Chief on Bass Player 1989-2018. He is the author of Brave New Bass, a compilation of interviews with bass players like Marcus Miller, Flea, Will Lee, Tony Levin, Jeff Berlin, Les Claypool and more, and The Fretless Bass, with insight from over 25 masters including Tony Levin, Marcus Miller, Gary Willis, Richard Bona, Jimmy Haslip, and Percy Jones.