Ever since the dawn of MTV and Friday Night Videos, the music video has significantly impacted musical tastes and pop culture. It might not be as extreme as when the Buggles declared that "Video Killed the Radio Star", but there is no arguing that the music video certainly could make or break a song's popularity. So this regular Flashback Video feature will serve to remember some of the music videos from the great '80s decade that made an impact on me in one way or another.
This issue we will cover "Freeway of Love" by Aretha Franklin. Released as a single in June of 1985, the song became Franklin's highest-charting single in twelve years (peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 in August of that year) and created a resurgence for the Queen of Soul in the mid-80s. "Freeway of Love" also spent five weeks at #1 on the Billboard R&B chart and was one of the biggest hits of 1985. Some of that success was due to the music video receiving heavy rotation on MTV.
The music video for "Freeway of Love" was directed by Brian Grant who was one of the most prolific music video directors of the decade. Grant is also responsible for bringing us Olivia Newton-John's "Physical", Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey", Duran Duran's "New Moon on Monday", Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money", Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know" and "I Wanna Dance with Somebody", Tina Turner's "Private Dancer" and Jody Watley's "Looking For a New Love" among many others.
The video was filmed primarily in black and white and shot around the city of Detroit. The performance part with Aretha was filmed at Club Tattoo on Woodbridge Avenue (which Franklin co-owned) and that footage is interspersed with clips of automobiles being manufactured in Detroit as well as dancers in and around cars in addition to sky shots of Detroit freeways and skyline. Here is the music video for "Freeway of Love" by Aretha Franklin...
I had the pleasure of an interview with Brian Grant and he shared the reasoning for the video ending up the way it did:
I've loved Aretha Franklin since I was about fourteen years of age. When I was offered the chance to work with her, I jumped at it. I listened to "Freeway of Love" and I thought it was a fantastic song, absolutely brilliant. When you work with Aretha, you have to go to Detroit since she is the Queen of Soul and wasn't going anywhere she didn't want to. So I got on a plane to Detroit with my crew and Arlene Phillips my choreographer. I wrote the idea for the video on the plane. It had to work in Detroit. I thought it's got to be upbeat and it's got to be fun.
Then I came up with the idea that, in the video, Aretha actually works in an automobile factory. Eventually singing the song, it's an uplifting experience and she leads the workers away from the drudgery of making cars like a pied piper and out into the open road. That's where the initial basic concept came from. So we set it up and we used some local dancers. The first day and night we used the dancers and shot some stuff all over Detroit. The next day, I got a phone call from Aretha saying she didn't want to do it anymore. I was completely shocked and she wouldn't even give a reason. We didn't know what to do. We had shots of a bunch of dancers all over Detroit, but we had no shots of Aretha at all. So a little bit of panic set in and I went back to my room. While I watched the sun go down in Detroit, I decided I wasn't going to leave without getting something with her. So I found out who her record producer was, Narada Michael Walden, I called him up, told him about the situation and he was great. He got on a plane and flew over from Los Angeles, we went up to Aretha's house and talked to her. Eventually, after a lot of cajoling, she agreed to be in the video but she just wanted it to be a performance in front of a band. So we quickly put a band together. We shot it in a nightclub. We now had a performance as well as the shots of the dancers around Detroit.
I took it back to England, went into the editing room and began cutting, but it just didn't seem to work. It needed a third element. So I started thinking and came up with the inspiration of using some stock footage of cars and what makes Motor City work. So I went back into the editing room by myself for three days and just cut the different images together with no story in my head or really any rhyme or reason. Eventually it worked. Turning it into black and white helped. The video ended up being very successful for her. So it was very successful for me as well.
Now you know and please check out that interview to find out lots more about Grant's other music videos.
Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!