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Forgotten 1972 Aretha Franklin Documentary By Sydney Pollack Getting Release (“Amazing Grace”)

ArethaFranklinAmazingGraceAretha Franklin’s 1972 album Amazing Grace was her best-selling album. Some even say it’s the greatest gospel album ever recorded.

But what few of us know is that the recording sessions on those two nights in January 1972, at L.A.’s New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, were captured on film by a 4-man camera crew, headed by the late director Sydney Pollack, shooting more than 20 hours of footage.

Now, 38 years later, the footage is being edited and prepped into a concert film for possible theatrical distribution, billed as a film by Sidney Pollack. Interestingly, Warner Bros. once envisioned the film as part of a double bill theatrical release with Superfly! How groovy would that have been?

The studio would later drop the project in September of 1972, not knowing what to do with a gospel concert movie.

Producer Alan Elliott, who had several conversations with Pollack in the year before his May 2008 death, is overseeing the project, working off Pollack’s notes. David Ritz, who co-authored Franklin’s autobiography, told Variety:

“Most Aretha Franklin fans feel this is her greatest work [...] To me, it’s one of the highlights of 20th-century American musical culture [...] We put a lot of work into making the arrangements tight. We brought in all of the traditional gospel values that everybody knew and loved, yet we added here and there sprinkles of what was then modern: Marvin Gaye’s ‘Wholy Holy,’ Carole King’s ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me.’ That’s what made it a universal hit. It combined the traditional gospel with songs by secular artists that did not subvert the gospel message.”

Elliott spent the last two years piecing the project together, stating that Pollack attempted to revive the project several times, but without success. Only a snippet of the footage has ever been seen publicly (in a 1988 BBC documentary).

And now, thankfully, the full feature-length film may finally see a release – if not theatrical, at the very least, on home video. Stay tuned…

Here’s its trailer:

5 comments to Forgotten 1972 Aretha Franklin Documentary By Sydney Pollack Getting Release (“Amazing Grace”)

  • Harlepolis

    The GREATEST news since the start of this year!!!

    You have no idea how long I waited till they finalize this shelved masterpiece. “Amazing Grace” is one of my FAVE albums ever(and the ONLY gospel album I own), it was truly torture seeing the few VERY brief clips from the film in her documentaries,,,,and while we’re on the subject, I hope her shelved documentary film of her “Fillmore concert”(mid 70s) get released as well.

  • Anthony E

    This sounds great. Curious if Pollack came to this idea while working on No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Seeing Jill Scott in her garb reminding him of Aretha’s cover.
    Well to conincide with the film they should re-release the album on some super duper special edition collector’s issue platinum gold tinted CD’s.

    Another odd note to premiere the film would be to screen it in a place with great sound, a place built to carry that voice and that started it all. Showcase the screening @ L.A.’s New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, so I could see it.

  • grace

    @Harlepolis
    I’ve been listening to this album, since I was six years old, the day my mother brought it home. I have two cd’s, it’s on regular rotation on my mp3 playlist, listen to it every day, have the original lp (ebay). It is one of the best albums ever made. Aretha murdered on thos two nights. She is (or was) untouchable in her phrasing, tone, pitch — everything. Her best. All I ever had was the pictures of the concert from the album. The rhythm section she and Rev. James Cleveland put together for that night was off the chain. They had bongos! Oin the church! I always close my eyes and dream I’m there. Rev. Cleveland tore it up too. And Aretha’s idol, the great Clara Ward was in the pews. You can even hear her singing along on some songs. I can’t wait to see this throwdonw! Roof raiser! I can’t wait! OMG.

  • Jody Walker

    The best gospel album ever recorded. I have owned this lp since it’s release. I purchased it on 8-track and also on cd as times and the way we listen to music has changed. To have an actual film of this is incredible and I can not wait till it is released and I own a copy. There is no way not nearly enough footage of the Queen Aretha when she was in her prime and that angers me. Mainly because I was too young to recall some of her early appearances. She is my favorite singer to this day. All Hail to the Queen.

  • Brian. G. Gary

    I’ve have been looking, waiting for footage of Amazing Grace Recording for Decades. That recording influence my musical career, the Organ (Kenneth Luper) was my idol, thou I never met him in person I was about 12 or 13yrs. old when this album was release. I can go on and on, even as I was a part of a another great historic album and recorded on it with Jesus Cleveland The Album ” I Dont Fell Noways Tired” I was still in awe with Amazing Grace. Place E-mail me when the project comes out!!