A never-before-heard solo version of the late Aretha Franklin’s collaboration with Mary J Blige about faith and race has been released on Juneteenth.
Sony’s RCA Records, RCA Inspiration and Legacy Recordings released the version of Never Gonna Break My Faith on Friday, the day celebrating the emancipation of black people.
The song dates from 2006 but is still relevant, featuring lyrics like: “You can lie to a child with a smiling face/Tell me that colour ain’t about a race.”
Clive Davis, Sony Music’s chief creative officer and Franklin’s close friend and collaborator, said in a statement: “The world is very different now.
“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.”
Dozens of artists have released new songs detailing the black experience amid the global protests sparked by the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others.
Some performers have released covers of protest anthems or re-released older songs that resonate with the times, like Never Gonna Break My Faith.
Lyrics from the song include: “My Lord, won’t you help them to understand/That when someone takes the life of an innocent man/Well they’ve never really won, and all they’ve really done/Is set the soul free, where it’s supposed to be.”
Calling Franklin’s performance “chilling,” Davis said the song’s lyrics and relevance “will shake every fibre in your body”.
“Everyone should hear this record,” Davis said. “It deserves to be an anthem.”
Never Gonna Break My Faith won best gospel performance at the 50th Grammy Awards in 2008, marking Franklin’s 18th and final Grammy win.
The song was originally featured in the film Bobby, about U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 assassination, and features background vocals from The Boys Choir of Harlem.
“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,” Grammy-winning singer Bryan Adams, who co-wrote the song, said in a statement.
“I’m so glad it’s being released, the world needs this right now.”