Aretha Louise Franklin, singer, pianist and songwriter, born 25 March 1942; died 16 August 2018.
She was a super-star who will be sorely missed.
In an article in the New York Times Wesley Morris wrote:
We’re never going to have an artist with a career as long, absurdly bountiful, nourishing and constantly surprising as hers.
His article focused mainly on the strength, and soul, of her music and how she used music as a siren call for equality, especially in her rendition of the Otis Redding song “Respect.” Redding wrote the song about a relationship, but Franklin put a whole different spin on it:
So Ms. Franklin’s rearrangement was about power. She had the right to be respected — by some dude, perhaps by her country. Just a little bit. What did love have to do with that?
Aretha Franklin was noted for arranging her own recordings, from the musicians to the backup singers and how her voice would blend with it all, as well as how she would sing the lyrics to make a message come alive. She did that in turning “Respect” into a battle cry for justice and equal rights for all.
Her hit recording of “Respect” was released in 1967, which was a time of turmoil in the United States in regard to Civil Rights, the Vietnam war and political assassinations. And she did that in her stunning rendition of My Country Tis of Thee” at the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009. The “soul” with which she sang that anthem made us all believe, if just for a moment, that our country could indeed”Let Freedom Ring.”
Aretha Franklin was also noted for her many performances of The National Anthem at events, including Superbowl 40. But her history of singing the anthem goes back to 1968 when she sang it at the Democratic National Convention. People expected to hear the standard arrangement and were not ready for the “soul” that Aretha brought to the stage. As Zack Stanton writes in an article in Politico Magazine, the people were not prepared for singer like Aretha Franklin at all:
She was black. She was a woman. She had curves. She was strong, but knew deep pain. She was angry about injustice. She came from the church. She married Sunday morning with Saturday night. She didn’t apologize for it or check anything at the door. And in 1968, that made her daring.
Aretha was the daughter of the powerful Detroit Pastor, C.L. Franklin, and she grew up in an atmosphere of calling for civil rights from the pulpit and from Franklin’s activism. He was a friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., and it was at the Freedom March of 1963 in Detroit, that Franklin organized, where King first delivered his “I have a Dream” speech.
Considering Aretha Franklin’s deep roots in church, it is not surprising that she imbued her music with such strong messages.
In his Politico article, Zack Stanton wrote:
Aretha Franklin’s inheritance was a tradition in which the political was about justice, justice was about morality, morality about the church’s teachings, and the church was alive through song.
Some fans say her rendition of Amazing Grace, as sung at an event at the White House hosted by President and Mrs. Obama in 2014, was a particularly crowning achievement, as it showcased her deep, abiding faith. “Women of Soul: In Performance at the White House” was a PBS music special taped in the East Room of the White House, celebrating the great “foremothers” of American music, with songs expressing the struggles and achievements of women.
From Barack Obama: Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace.
From Jeremy Corbyn: Today we’ve lost one of the world’s most wonderful singers, Aretha Franklin. Her music is moving and full of hope. “Respect” was an inspirational anthem in the civil rights and feminist movements.
From Lenny Kravitz: The Queen of Soul has left this earth to sit on her throne in heaven. How blessed we were to hear the best that God had to offer in her voice. RESPECT!
From Margo Price: Legends never die.
From Hillary Clinton: Mourning the loss today of Aretha Franklin who shared her spirit and talent with the world. She deserves not only our RESPECT but also our lasting gratitude for opening our eyes, ears and hearts. Rest in eternal peace, my friend.
From Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.: A lot of music left the earth today. The Heavens rejoice. Rest in heavenly peace.
From Annie Lennox: Everyone who loved her will be saying little prayers of gratitude, respect and appreciation for the musical life force that enriched our lives. Her voice will soar forever.
I agree, her voice and her music and her soul, will soar forever. And I celebrate her as one of the strongest women to have graced our lives.