The title cut to Aretha Franklin’s fourth album at Columbia Records, Laughing On The Outside, is another cover. Shocking, right? Aretha? A cover? As I’ve been working on this it’s truly incredible just how many of these tracks Aretha recorded were covers, especially from the Columbia days.
Dinah Shore, Andy Russell, and Sammy Kay and his orchestra all found popularity with the song in 1946, when it was published. Ella Fitzgerald gave it her own reading in 1962, as did Bernadette Carrol.
Aretha’s version has a jazz center to it, with some pop tendencies. Her voice is front and center, with nuanced “ooo”’s of background vocals and light percussion persisting. The fluttering of a flute and the touches of piano accentuate her further, as do the complimenting slides of the strings. She remains relatively restrained vocally for most of the song, until around the 2:15, when the soul in Aretha begins to bubble. Then around 2:35 she lets out a belt that is positively knockout. Something none of the other artists who tackled the song can say they did.
Topically, there’s something particularly autobiographical about Aretha singing this song. Throughout her career, Aretha always put on a smiling face despite the pain and trials she endured.
Hear Aretha let out both sides of her emotions on “Laughing On The Outside”