Underneath Aretha Franklin's high-flying voice, for years, it was Chuck Rainey who gave her a musical foundation.
BEDFORD, Texas -- Underneath Aretha Franklin's high-flying voice, for years, it was Chuck Rainey who gave her a musical foundation.
"It's her voice. It's her voice that attracted me," Rainey told WFAA. He is a bass player who has lived in North Texas for decades now, and he still plays the same Fender base that he took on tour and used in the studio with Aretha Franklin.
"I've taken very good care of it," said Rainey.
He is an influential performer in his own right, a go-to studio musician for names like Steely Dan, Roberta Flack and Quincy Jones. But he says no one will ever match Aretha Franklin's voice. "Aretha was special. She was always a part of the band. And every time we had to play something, she sang it," said Rainey.
Originally from Ohio, Rainey recalled meeting Franklin in the 1960s. She was already famous in gospel music circles. He was hired by King Curtis to play in her band, and for three years he worked alongside her in concerts and in the studio.
"We did a lot. A lot of songs," he said. "The ones that I remember that I cherish the most are the 'Border Song,' Young, Gifted and Black' and 'Rock Steady.' Those are the things that music community really gave a lot of praise to."
He recalled recording 'Rock Steady' in a Miami studio in the middle of winter. He said that the first demo they recorded initially ended up being the take that was published.
He also remembered a concert in Oakland where he was late getting into town. He rushed to the Oakland Coliseum but missed playing the first songs for the opening act. Instead, he quickly changed into his tuxedo and found himself walking on stage with Aretha herself.
"The hair on the back of my neck is still standing up, it's so special," said Rainey. "The queen comes out, I come out with her."
Even after he left her band, he stayed in touch with Franklin. He said she was a source of support after he suffered a stroke a few years ago, and they last spoke in February via Facetime when he knew that she was not well.
"One thing I remember, she was more concerned about my health," he said.
Next week, he will travel to Detroit for her funeral. While it's hard to imagine, Rainey said at times, Franklin encouraged her band members to not listen to her voice during performances.
"She said, 'Chuck be careful. I don't want you to listen too close.' Because I know what I do to people," Rainey recalled.
Now he can't help but listen to that voice and the music they made together.