“I don’t think it’s bold at all. I think it’s quite natural that we all want respect — and should get it.”
Bow down, Beyonce; the Queen is ascending.
Aretha Franklin was aptly called the Queen of Soul, and for good reason. Her vocal presence was enormous, felt from the humble beginnings of New Bethel Baptist Church where her father preached, to the R&B charts across America, and on to a universal audience belting along the best that we can to her beloved songs. While best known for her amazing voice and magnificent music, Aretha Franklin was much more than a musician. She was champion for civil rights and a feminist icon, professing her feelings loudly and proudly on and off the stage.
Born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, Franklin moved with her family north to Detroit when she four years old. She grew up in the Motor City, and she made a name for herself singing at her father’s church. Her father took her around the country to further her musical talents, and she spent time with the likes of Sam Cooke, and Mavis Staples and her sisters. She also met Martin Luther King Jr. and sang at his events, and eventually at his funeral. She did have a much more joyful time singing at an historic moment for Americans decades later when she sang at Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration in 2009.
With immortal hits like “Chain of Fools” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, it’s easy to understand how Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, especially when you consider that her best known song, “Respect” was originally written and performed by Otis Redding two years prior to her version! (I’ll write about this more in the future.) Her rendition has some key musical and lyrical differences, and it is sang from the perspective of a strong woman who is demanding the respect she deserves. It’s no surprise that the song became an anthem for the feminist movement, as well as the civil rights movement, not to mention that it is a fantastic song.
Listening to her incredible voice, with its range and power (she does not need, she does not need, a microphone!), it is easy to deduce how Rolling Stone twice declared her the greatest singer of all time. One of my favorites from her to further demonstrate that killer voice is “Think”, which she sang to great delight in one of my favorite movies.
In The Blues Brothers, Aretha Franklin gives the most memorable of the musical numbers from a performing musician (and that’s saying something because there are a lot and they’re all great!) “Think” is another awesome anthem of empowerment with Franklin pouring her soul into that soulful music.
Aretha Franklin was a remarkable woman whose music and message will live on forever. Her strength, charisma, and natural talent and how she shared it with us all, are all reasons why she earned her reputation as an admired entertainer and force for change. Her voice was not just a musical marvel, but a call for freedom, and what she did with it earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award a United States citizen can have bestowed upon her.
Farewell, Aretha Franklin! Thank you for taking care of business here!
Sock it to me, sock it to me,