It was the mid eighties. Madonna, Paula Abdul, and Whitney Houston dominated Music Television (or MTV for our 90’s babies. Yes, there was a time before The Real World and Jersey Shore). In small town New Jersey, a chubby cheeked little girl stood upon her father’s feet. They were the only two in the house. As the needle dropped on the record, a smooth, danceable, soul beat came through the stereo speakers. The most beautiful vocal collaboration in one person was heard and that little girl’s world was changed forever. On August 16, 2018, that little girl, now a grown woman, again had her world changed when the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, sang her way to heaven.
Aretha Louise Franklin, the daughter of a Baptist minister, burst on to the musical Motown scene in the heyday of 1960’s Detroit. In the 7 years that followed, she had not only arrived with hits like Respect, Chain of Fools, and (You make me feel like) A Natural Woman, she had indelibly etched her name in the annals of musical history. If ever there was a musical Mount Rushmore, one can argue she has a place for sure. She sang of love, heartache, basic human rights, and the core strength of human beings.
Few knew, however, that she sang of those songs because she lived them. And that was what made my connection to her so strong. In some ways, I felt as if Ms. Franklin had read my internal diary. She sang what I feared to say. To me, Aretha was a bad ass.
Her songs took me back to slow dances with my father, dance parties with my mom and sister, and singing loudly( and probably badly) with my windows down in my first car. At age 16, I had the immense privilege of seeing and hearing her in concert. To this very day, I have never known a more moving or beautiful instrument! I will never forget it as long as I live. From her nose to her toes, she eluded a humble style, sophistication, and grace that will go unmatched in my lifetime.
Whether she was playing the no-nonsense, no free chicken giving, long-suffering wife in The Blues Brothers, or letting her man know he better be a Do Right Man and Think before he went out with that Chain of Fools, Ms. Franklin captivated us for 50 plus years. She certainly left a mark on me. And that, my dear readers, is what true legends do. You better believe the heavenly choir is singing more beautifully now. Rest in the paradise your voice gave us here on Earth. We’ll Say a little prayer for you.