ABOUT THE SONG
“I Say a Little Prayer” is a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for Dionne Warwick, originally peaking at number four on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart in December 1967.
Warwick’s “I Say a Little Prayer” did not appear on the Billboard Easy Listening chart although two instrumental versions of the song were Easy Listening chart items in 1968: the first by Sérgio Mendes at No. 21 in the spring of 1968 while that fall Julius Wechter and the Baja Marimba Band took “I Say a Little Prayer” to No. 10 Easy Listening.
“I Say a Little Prayer” also returned to the Pop & R&B Top Ten in the fall of 1968 via a recording by Aretha Franklin taken from her 1968 Aretha Now album. Franklin and background vocalists the Sweet Inspirations were singing the song for fun while rehearsing the songs intended for the album when the viability of Franklin actually recording “I Say a Little Prayer” became apparent, significantly re-invented from the format of the Dionne Warwick original via the prominence of Clayton Ivey’s piano work and the choral vocals of the Sweet Inspirations. Similar to the history of Warwick’s double-sided hit, the Aretha Franklin version was intended as the B-side of the July 1968 single release “The House that Jack Built” but began to accrue its own airplay that August. Even with “The House That Jack Built” ranking as high as No. 6 (#2 R&B) in September 1968, “I Say a Little Prayer” reached No. 10 (#3 R&B) that October, the same month the single was certified Gold by the RIAA. “Prayer” became Franklin’s ninth and last consecutive Hot 100 top 10 hit on the Atlantic label (not counting every flip side), with each of the nine curiously peaking at a different position. Franklin’s “Prayer” has a special significance in her UK career, as with its September 1968 No. 4 peak it became Franklin’s biggest UK hit; subsequently Franklin has surpassed that track’s UK peak only with her No. 1 collaboration with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”. In February 1987, UK music weekly New Musical Express published its critics’ top 150 singles of all time, with Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer” ranked at No. 1, followed by Al Green’s “Tired of Being Alone” and Warwick’s “Walk On By”. (Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer” did not appear in the magazine’s in-house critics’ top 100 singles poll conducted in November 2002.)