Initially, I wasn’t going to write anything about Aretha Franklin, who defined an era as the Queen of Soul, dying of pancreatic cancer at the age 76 on August 16. But there were SO many tributes, some of them very interesting.
This piece recommends a specific playlist. But it also shared biography I didn’t see over and over: “Aretha was quirky. She was afraid to fly. She wouldn’t stay in a building over eight stories high. On stage, she was the epitome of power and confidence, but she wrestled with personal struggles that could have felled a lesser oak.
“Her mother died when she was 10. She had her first child at the age of 12 —and we can only imagine what sadness hides behind that story. She ate and starved and fought with body issues and insecurities for decades, and suffered through emotionally and physically abusive relationships and marriages. Yet, like all great artists, somehow she channeled all that pain and passion into something the world has never heard before and will never experience again.”
If you didn’t know before her death, you probably now know Aretha she was born to a musical family. She had more than 100 singles on the Billboard charts. She’s one of the most decorated Grammy winners of all time, nominated 44 times, winning 18. She was an underrated pianist. She was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And she was a civil rights activist.
Barack Obama said on his Facebook Page:
“America has no royalty. But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring. Born in Memphis and raised in Detroit, Aretha Franklin grew up performing gospel songs in her father’s congregation. For more than six decades since, every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine.
“Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, 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. She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.
“Aretha may have passed on to a better place, but the gift of her music remains to inspire us all. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. Michelle and I send our prayers and warmest sympathies to her family and all those moved by her song.”
The New York Times notes:
“Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ is the most empowering popular song ever. Could we have shown her more? Just a little bit, our critic writes.” I felt a little sorry for Otis Redding who wrote and recorded the song. But like no one, except maybe Johnny Cash, she would take an existing song and transform it to her own, making it anthemic.
Obama’s Inauguration (2009)
Sweet Bitter Love, which was the first thing I played after hearing of her passing
Dustbury wrote: “We are honored to have been alive when Aretha was in her prime, and centuries from now, people will envy us for having been so fortunate.”