As the strings take hold on “Prove It”, it proves one thing for sure: Aretha Franklin sounds good with an orchestra around her. The slow burner from her second Atlantic LP, Aretha Arrives, isn’t well known, but Aretha does some first-rate sanging on the record.
It’s also one of the few cuts on Aretha Arrives that doesn’t feature Aretha at the piano, but it doesn’t impede her ability to lay in some strong vocal wails. Cissy Houston and the Sweet Inspirations back Aretha up on this cut, adding a crucial layer around Aretha’s stellar vocals.
In the liner notes for the 1993 CD reissue of Aretha Arrives, soul scholar David Nathan refers to a version of “Prove It” by Jean Wells that may have influenced Aretha’s take. After a good amount of Googling, I can’t track down Jean’s version, though I did find a version by Mary Wheeler, who released the first take of it in March of 1966.
While Mary’s version maintains the same stamina throughout, Aretha alternates, kicking things up a notch as she approaches the chorus, and then restraining herself again when she returns to the verses. She hits her peak on “Prove It” on the last “now that you say it’s goodbye”, hitting a few notes that easily shake the soul.
Listen to Aretha demand that he “Prove It”: