Aretha Franklin – Border Song

11th May 2023 · 1970s, 1972, Music, Soul

Aretha Franklin had a US hit with one of Elton John’s early flops, Border Song, when she put it out in 1972 – two decades before they sang it together.

When it was released as the first single from his second album in the spring of 1970, Border Song sank without trace, like Elton John’s three previous singles.

But when it was released across the Atlantic six months later it gave the young singer-songwriter his first chart success… in Canada. It reached the dizzy heights of No.34 there and crept into the US charts at No.96

A year later, after Your Song had finally given him his first genuine hit single – at the eighth attempt – he got a call from an artist asking to cover the earlier song.

The call came from the Queen of Soul herself – Aretha Franklin.

Her attention had probably been drawn by the gospel choir that appeared towards the end of Elton’s slow-burning version – there’s a nice clip of him performing it on BBC In Concert in a tank-top that looks like something his mum might have knitted for him.

Aretha cranked up the spiritual gospel element, fired up her own gospel choir, and tinkered with the title, adding the song’s refrain “Holy Moses” in parentheses.

Her version surpassed Elton’s, without exactly taking America by storm, sneaking into the US chart at no.37 before appearing on her 1972 album Young, Gifted And Black.

And the pair finally performed it together in 1993 on an album of duets.