In 1988, country music star Reba McEntire performed a cover of Aretha Franklin’s hit song “Respect,” proving even back then that the Queen of Soul’s far-reaching influence was felt by artists across all genres. Reba’s rendition was not received favorably at the time, but we think her powerful pipes pack quite the punch.
Dolly Parton, who was the host of the 1988 CMA Awards, introduced Reba. “Her style has been influenced by such great people as Patsy Cline and even Merle Haggard, but when it comes to the soul part of the singing, she says her main influence has been Aretha Franklin — you’re going to see what I mean right now,” Parton said.
In the clip, Reba struts on stage in a sequinned green top and tight black leather pants, her signature fiery red locks teased to the high heavens in a style that screams “1980s.” Throughout her performance, Reba smirks at the audience, obviously having a blast on stage. “Honey, you got my respect,” Dolly shouts as Reba enjoys the applause from the crowd.
So what was there to not like about Reba’s interpretation of the song? Well, 1988 was also the year Reba released her self-titled album, which stayed atop the country charts for six consecutive weeks and featured a studio version of “Respect.” Apparently, citics didn’t like the song’s more polished sound. You can listen to the recording below.
Performing her version live at the CMA Awards was a way for Reba to symbolically shrug her shoulders at critics and say, “Who cares what you think?” And to be quite honest, you can’t really compare Reba’s cover with Aretha’s — both versions are amazing.
When Aretha Franklin died on August 16, 2018, the world mourned her loss. Reba shared a clip of her 1988 performance on Twitter in honor of the late diva, writing, “I’ve had so many influences in my life, and one of them is the Queen of Soul. Rest in Peace, Aretha. I’ll sing this one for you.”