Track of the Day: ‘What A Fool Believes’ by Aretha Franklin

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

A reader, Tom Schroeder, tries to lift us up as we approach the end of this death march of an election:

Aretha Franklin’s cover of “What A Fool Believes” is the best thing you will hear today—a bright light in dark times. The original version is a breezy number with Michael McDonald [of The Doobie Brothers] on vocals and a fun little synth line going on. You all know this song; it’s planted firmly in anodyne soft-rock canon (even serving as the central plot anchor in the first episode of Yacht Rock, a proto-web-series devoted to lovingly lampooning that era and genre). It won Grammys. Wikipedia calls it “one of the few non-disco No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 during the first eight months of 1979.”

Let’s fix that, said the Queen of Soul the following year. And oh, does she. There’s brass. There’s a slap-bass solo. There’s an ostentatious sax entrance near the end. There are, of course, delightful vocal vamps punctuating the whole thing.

Best of all? Aretha managed to record a decidedly non-yacht-rock cover of a yacht rock song—with backing musicians from Toto.

If you can write a review of your favorite cover song as well as he can, please drop us a note:

(Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)