In honour of the beautiful and brilliant late Aretha Franklin, who sadly passed away on the 16th August 2018, as well as the musical legend George Michael who also left this world on the 25th December 2015, the incredible “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” will be discussed on Story of Song today.
Aretha Franklin (also known as the “Queen of Soul”) was one of soul music’s greatest talents. With a childhood spent singing in a gospel choir in Detroit where her father C.L Franklin was minister. By the end of the 1960’s she had earned her “Queen of Soul” due to her infamous songs: “Respect”, “Think” and many more.
“I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” was a result of Aretha Franklin’s producer at the time as well as her record label boss Cliv Davis. For George Michael, this marked a huge moment in his solo career as he had only released two singles since leaving Wham!, but he was also was a huge fan of Franklin and would later state in interviews that he considered the duet a “career highlight”. Little did Michael know, Franklin was also a fan of his, previously stating that she believed that Michael had “a very unique sound” and that she was very happy when Davis suggested turning the hit song into a duet.
“I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” tells the tale of two lovers who have both been through heartache with previous partners and sing about their trials and tribulations and how they were all worth it in the end, as they knew that this lover was waiting for them.
When the river was deep, I didn’t falter
When the mountain was high, I still believed
When the valley was low, it didn’t stop me, no
I knew you were waiting, I knew you were waiting for me
The chorus above is sung by both Michael and Franklin, using physical difficulties such as high mountains and low valleys to put into context how much struggle they feel as if they’ve been through – but all that struggle was worth it and didn’t affect them as they knew their new lover was waiting for them.
Franklin sings the main verses of the songs, which focus on the struggles and search of finding the lover, as well as intuition that they would soon meet when the time was correct, while Michael’s presence is strongly present in the pre-chorus and the chorus of the song. He emphasises that he “doesn’t regret a single moment”, even “when I think of all those disappointments”, and he “just laughs”. Michael is saying how when he at his past lovers, he doesn’t feel regret at the fact they did not work as he’s content now, and is able to look back and laugh at them.
Michael’s powerful voice accompanied by Franklin’s equally powerful and soulful voice creates a song full of not just pure, raw and unfiltered talent, it creates a intoxicating, strong and upbeat love ballad that was very unique and rare for that time. The almost electronic feel to the song and it’s slow tempo in the verses but fast and 80’s pop combined with soul feel creates an extremely passionate yet fun song.
The music video was directed by Andy Morahan and is very simple in terms of cinematography. The video opens with Michael entering a dark room with two body guards, with Franklin on a large screen behind him preparing for him. Towards the end of the video, they are gradually both brought together singing in front of the screen and on it – and the video simply ends with a mischievous wink from Franklin.
Both Aretha Franklin and George Michael were unbelievably talented, and the these two musical legends will forever live on in the memory of those who were lucky enough to experience and love their incredible voices.
Release date: January 23rd 1987
Songwriter/s: Simon Climie, Dennis Morgan
Record Label: Arista
Chart history: “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” reached number-one in the UK Singles Chart and the Billboard Top 100, and was Franklin’s first and only UK number-one hit. For Michael it was his third consecutive number one hit in the UK since leaving Wham!.