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By 1966, Aretha Franklin had become frustrated with Columbia Records. Their tried and true formula of light jazz instrumentation and strings had worked for other female vocalists, but not Franklin. Lackluster sales meant that she actually owed the label money, 


When Columbia let Franklin's contract lapse, Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler quickly signed her, telling her to “drop the Judy Garland cabaret act”, play the piano herself, and get back to her gospel roots.


Wexler sent Franklin to the fabled FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. After recording ‘I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)’, a boozy argument between the studio owner and Franklin’s then-husband and manager came to blows, halting the sessions. Wexler brought The Muscle Shoals Rythm Section to New York and 10 days later, sessions resumed at Atlantic Studios, 1841 Broadway.  


‘I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)’ was the first of seven consecutive Top 10 singles for Franklin, five of which were million-sellers. The “Queen of Soul” had found her voice, and The Muscle Shoals Rythm Section became Franklin's studio band for her next five albums. 


“The enthusiasm and camaraderie in the studio was terrific, like nothing I had experienced at Columbia,” Franklin says in her autobiography. “This new Aretha music was raw and real and so much more myself. I loved it.”

On April 17th 1968, Aretha and The Sweet Inspirations were fooling around singing Dionne Warwick’s recent hit “I Say a Little Prayer” during rehearsals at Atlantic Studios.


They wanted to record it, but Wexler felt it was too soon after Warwick's version, which reached number 4 in the Billboard 100 just twelve weeks before. 


But Franklin and Cissy Houston (Whitney’s mom) were insistent and Wexler caved.


The song was recorded in one take.


“She blew the fuckin’ doors off the song” says Wexler, “She redefined it, restructuring the sound and turning what had been delightful fluff into something serious, obsessive, and haunting.”


“It’s a better record than the record we made,” admitted Bacharach, “We did a great record, but she topped it.

Aretha Franklin (center) with the Muscle Shoals Rythm Section recording at Atlantic Studios, 1841 Broadway, April 1968

©  David Gahr/Getty Images

The Art Deco "Cova" building at 1841 Broadway was demolished in 2022.


Construction is underway on a 25-story residential tower with 123 apartments, and 20,000 sq. ft. of commercial retail space on the first two levels.


"Anagram Columbus Circle" is expected to be completed in the fall of 2023. Tenants will have an unobstructed view of Columbus Circle, Central Park, and the residential supertalls of Billionaires’ Row. 


Amenities will include a children's zoo-themed playroom, fitness center with yoga and pilates studios, video arcade, pet spa, STEM-inspired study area with podcast station, and an acoustically engineered music room. A Clubhouse on the second floor will serve expresso and continental breakfast overlooking the Conservatory Garden. A Penthouse lounge and terrace will have grilling stations and a fire pit, where residents can enjoy chef-prepared meals and mixology classes. 

The monthly rent for a three-bedroom apartment is approximately $20,000 per month.

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