It may be the most rousing feminist anthem ever, but "Respect" — the song that made Aretha Franklin the "Queen of Soul" — was actually written about a man demanding a break from his wife.
Franklin's genius was to turn the song — and the traditional values it espoused -- on their head by some deft changes to the lyrics and by adding the stirring "R - E - S - P - E - C - T" chorus.
In so doing, she made Otis Redding's 1965 lament of an exhausted working man demanding some slack from his woman into a rallying call for downtrodden African American women.
Rolling Stone magazine put her version in the top five greatest songs of all time, saying Franklin was a "woman calling an end to the exhaustion and sacrifice of a raw deal with scorching sexual authority."
"It was not just her altering of the lyrics, or changing the point of view of the song from a male one to that of a woman, she also gave it an entirely new energy and soul," the pop music specialist added.
Malawey, chair of music at Macalester College in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, credits Franklin with turning the song into an anthem for both the feminist and civil rights movement in the late 1960s.
"Not only did she add the R-E-S-P-E-C-T chorus, but her remaking of the song gives it a whole different empowerment message, both sexually and politically.
"In my opinion, the extent of her re-authoring grants her status as owner of the song, and makes it a whole new sonic experience. That is why multiple social movements have claimed Franklin's 'Respect' as theirs" over the past half-century, she said.
The hit won Franklin the first two of her 18 Grammy awards, and went on to feature in more than 30 major films including "Platoon", "The Blues Brothers", "Mystic Pizza" and "Forrest Gump".
Malawey said that Franklin, the daughter of a Baptist minister, always denied that there were sexual overtones to the lyrics she added.
"It is something beyond lyrics or the melody that really moves us and that is all to do with Aretha Franklin's own vocal delivery. That is what has made the song so powerful, so lasting and so relevant today."