We get furious at Hollywood for cranking out endless adaptations and reboots of old stories, but famous musicians do it almost as much -- with the right combination of talent, production, and MC Hammer, any moldy old song can become a brand-new hit. However, some George Lucas-style wizardry is occasionally called upon to "update" the lyrics, because the words of those forgotten originals are routinely bizarre, racist, and/or totally insane.
5"Respect" Was About a Man Giving His Wife Permission to Screw Around
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The Famous Version:
Undoubtedly Aretha Franklin's most famous song and a staple of children's movie montages for decades, "Respect" tells the story of a woman who simply wants respect as both a mate and as a human being:
The track became a rallying cry for feminists everywhere -- a strong woman not just asking for respect but demanding it.
"Respect" was written and initially recorded by soul legend Otis Redding, whom you may recognize as being neither a woman nor particularly a feminist. The song is an object lesson on how minor changes and context make all the difference in the world:
So where Franklin is belting out a powerful anthem for underappreciated women everywhere, Redding's version is about a world-weary road musician telling his kept wife that she is absolutely free to have sex with whomever she wishes, so long as she doesn't do it while he's at home. Check out the differences -- in Franklin's version, she sings:
I ain't gonna do you wrong while you're gone
Ain't gonna do you wrong 'cause I don't wanna
All I'm askin'
Is for a little respect when you come home
That's pretty straightforward -- she is trustworthy and loyal and deserves to be treated as an equal. Redding, however, could give a howling monkey shit what his lady does while he's playing gigs out on the road, so long as she knows that she'd better shoo any and all gentlemen callers out of the door before his Cadillac hits the driveway:
Do me wrong, honey if you wanna
You can do me wrong, honey while I am gone
But all I'm asking for
Is for a little respect when I come home
Plus, we're guessing he meant this as a reciprocal arrangement.
No ambiguity here: Redding is encouraging his lady to screw around while he's gone -- she just needs to make sure he doesn't find a strange cufflink on his nightstand when he gets back. It's vaguely sexist (Redding says, "I am about to give you all my money, all I'm asking for is a little respect when I come home"), but even worse, it paints him as such a desperately broken man that he is willing to let this person walk all over him. This is a little different from the message of self-empowerment that Franklin wanted to send, so the lyrics were (appropriately) changed.