A new music video for a fresh remix of an Aretha Franklin track connects the civil rights movement she supported in the 1960s with the current Black Lives Matter protests that the Queen of Soul did not quite live to see.
The video was released Friday night to dovetail with Juneteenth, as was the track itself, which came out earlier in the day. The 14-year-old song, “Never Gonna Break My Faith,” was originally released as a duet with Mary J. Blige, but the new version lets Franklin carry the vocal load for the entirety of the modern spiritual.
The music video juxtaposes news footage from the Selma march and other civil rights activism at the height of the turbulent 1960s with this year’s Black Lives Matter protests — interspersed with shots of Franklin performing gospel music in the recent “Amazing Grace” film.
“Never Gonna Break My Faith” was co-written by Bryan Adams and originally appeared on the soundtrack of the 2006 film “Bobby,” about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. It won the Grammy for best gospel performance in 2008, her 18th and final win.
In releasing this new mix, which also features the Boys Choir of Harlem, Clive Davis cited its relevance to the events of today, as it touches on themes of race (“You can lie to a child with a smiling face / Tell me that color ain’t about a race”) as well as hope and faith.
“The world is very different now,” said Davis, Sony Music’s chief creative officer, who was Franklin’s label partner for most of the last few decades of her life. “Change is everywhere and each of us, hopefully, is doing the best he or she can to move forward and make change as positive as possible. Music can play a major role here and Aretha’s performance is chilling. When you read the song’s lyric, and its relevance to what is happening today, it will shake every fiber in your body. Everyone should hear this record. It deserves to be an anthem.”
Said co-writer Adams, “When I wrote this song, I was channeling Aretha, never thinking that she’d ever actually sing the song. The thought was to write a hymn, something that would try and articulate the feeling of faith, and that even though you might have lost something, there would always be an inner light to guide you. When the song was demo-ed, I told the producers that Aretha would be the one to sing this, and sing it she did. This solo version has been sitting on my computer for years, and when I heard Clive was making a film on Aretha’s life, I sent this version to him. The world hasn’t heard her full performance and it really needed to be heard. I’m so glad it’s being released; the world needs this right now.”
Davis, obviously, opted not to hold the recording for the forthcoming Franklin biopic, which stars Jennifer Hudson, but to go ahead and release it for Juneteenth.
Franklin died in 2018 at age 76.