One of the lesser-known cuts from her classic Lady Soul LP, Aretha Franklin’s “Money Won’t Change You” was actually a James Brown cut first. Written by James and Nat Jones, the original applies a straightforward groove. The groove is equivalent to the one Otis Redding applied to “Respect”, and just like “Respect, Aretha “Aretha-ized” this one too.
In all of my research, not much has been said on “Money Won’t Change You”. That’s not much of a surprise when you consider that it’s sandwiched between “Chain Of Fools” and “People Get Ready” on an album that also contains “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Ain’t No Way”. Yet that doesn’t diminish the tenacity of this two-minute-and-ten-second Godfather of Soul cover. The same goes for her cover of the Genius of Soul’s “Come Back Baby”. These cuts may not be the forefront of Lady Soul because it contains the aforementioned signature cuts, but damn if they’re not the affirmation of it’s soul backbone.
The blueprint of James’ original can be heard, but the shifted focus on the guitars and augmentation of the groove, including a few breaks, give it a refreshed and more focused feel. James’ groove remains largely consistent and uninterrupted, giving it a characteristic that has been mimicked by many a beat in hip hop: it can get picked up and dropped off wherever.
Aretha’s vocal is pure perfection as are the background parts provided by the Sweet Inspirations and Aretha’s sister Carolyn. Background vocals continually helped Aretha transform songs like these, which before Aretha, contained no background parts. Like she did on “Respect”, she flips the script on a soul man’s messaging which can then empower women.
From my research, I can’t seem to find even a third of the song before or after Aretha’s cover. Perhaps she and James gave such impactful performances that no one else dared follow both the Queen and Godfather of Soul.
Stream “Money Won’t Change You”