Franklin collaborated on the song with Mary J. Blige in 2006 in which they sang about race and keeping their faith alive through hardship and discrimination. Background vocals were provided by The Boys Choir of Harlem.
Sony’s RCA Records, RCA Inspiration and Legacy Recordings released the never-before-heard version of the song on June 19, a holiday that marks the day in 1865 remaining slaves in the Confederacy learned they were free.
The lyrics, “You can lie to a child with a smiling face / Tell me that color ain’t about a race / You can cast the first stones / You can break my bones / But you're never gonna break / You're never gonna break my faith,” talk about race-based issues and the unwavering power to push through because of faith.
“The world is very different now. Change is everywhere and each of us, hopefully, is doing the best he or she can to move forward and make change as positive as possible,” Clive Davis, Sony Music’s CCO said in a statement.
Franklin sings, “My Lord, won’t you help them to understand / That when someone takes the life of an innocent man/Well they’ve never really won, and all they’ve really done / Is set the soul free, where it’s supposed to be.”
The Queen of Soul won her 18th and final Grammy in 2008 for “Never Gonna Break My Soul.”
“This solo version has been sitting on my computer for years, and when I heard Clive was making a film on Aretha’s life, I sent this version to him,” sing Bryan Adams, who co-wrote the song, said in a statement. “I’m so glad it’s being released, the world needs this right now.”