Aretha Franklin's Impact on Music is Unforgettable
Keep the Light Burning
I missed Aretha before she was gone, remembering her sing with gusto and style on a black and white TV when I was very young. It was about this time my family first visited Detroit and later, I loved how she stayed in that falling and rising city as she maintained faith in it just as she maintained faith in music and God. It was all a divine gift in her eyes.
I like the camaraderie in Detroit, how we’ll rally behind something that’s really worthy and come to each other’s assistance.— Aretha Franklin
The famous singer changed R&B in the way my cousin Elvis changed rock 'n' roll, so much so that she was the first black woman to be admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and to gain 100 Billboard Hot Hits. I can sing, but not like either of them.
The day before she died, I had been looking at photos of her recent years. noting her changing appearance as her health changed. I hope I could keep a positive attitude through deathly illness as she did.
Although she licked the weight problem in an unplanned way like my father did at the same age - by contracting cancer - her emaciated image was still comforting.
Ms. Franklin now reminded me of the kind African American men and women at my city's historic Central Market. They always gave the small children a branch of grapes to enjoy or a tangelo or other small fruit.
Aretha Louise Franklin produced Fruit of the Spirit, which she shared in her music, at least these fruits: love, joy, peace, kindness, and faithfulness. She put them into each song and people felt them. In a number of genres, including religious, she sang with The Sweet Inspirations that were backup for Elvis.
She was worshiped as the Queen of Soul in rhythm and blues, but she began as the daughter of a pastor and civil rights activist in Tennessee, singing Gospel at the age of 10 on evangelistic road trips. Her young voice was said to bring people into the presence of the holy - a voice that is "anointed" or as scholars call it, "hierophantic."
I believe that description and keep my memories of Ms. Franklin with those I have of Shirley Caesar, Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Delores Winans.
Reverend C.L. Franklin, Aretha's father, was called "The Million Dollar Voice", preaching in Detroit for 33 years. He also organized one of the largest marches for racial equality in America. It was here in Detroit that crowds first heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s powerful "I Have A Dream" speech. Faith and justice ran through the family, making Aretha's two sisters Erma an Carolyn gospel singer-songwriters as well.
As Christians, we are told to cast our earthly crowns before the Lord, and I can see in my mind a tall pile of Franklin's crowns right now. She had hundreds of awards and commendations.
Jennifer Hudson, also a Christian, was cast as the Queen of Soul in the 2019 biographical film.
The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.— Revelation 4:10-11; KJV
Aretha Franklin (1942 - 2018) personally chose Jennifer Hudson to portray her in the 2019 biographical film.— Announced by Music Producer Clive Davis
Aretha loved Detroit and loved watching it come back from stagnation and ruin. She saw many abandoned houses turned into art projects, abandoned lots cultivated for vegetable and flow gardens, a new Red Wings Arena to go with the historic Comerica Stadium and renovated Ford Field, ground breaking on new residential and commercial space northwest of Woodward and I-75, a new street car line, the upscale riverfront development on the Detroit River, and 14 million square feet of reconstructed downtown properties.
She saw some of the miracle happen before she died and always ignored naysayers. She also was able to see wonders like the big cats at Comerica Stadium anytime she wanted (see photos below).
In 1985, the governor and state government of Michigan named Aretha's voice a State Natural Resource. Even the U.S. Army sings her songs.
Hope for Future Light
Even under hospice care at home, the singing legend still spoke with hope. One of the few remaining legends of the 1970s, she called another one, Abdul 'Duke' Fakir, the last original member left from the Four Tops.
Mr. Fakir was quoted as saying that Aretha wanted to bring all the singers of the 1960s and 1970s together for a giant concert in New York City (UK Daily Mail, 8.14.2018). Instead a star-studded tribute concert was scheduled for her in New York before Thanksgiving 2018.
In the Midwest, we can see recorded concerts of Motown groups performing in the 1990s on public broadcasting networks and even by compilation DVDs. Ms. Franklin was never in those concerts and millions wish she had been.
Jennifer Hudson is described as being "the next Aretha Franklin." It surely would be good to have another one!
My Favorite Aretha Franklin Songs/Covers
- Think (especially her performance in The Blues Brothers of 1980)
- I'll Fly Away
- Chain of Fools (1967)
- Freeway of Love (1985)
- You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman); 1967
- Never Gonna Break My Faith (2006 with Mary J. Blige)
- Respect (1967)
- Rock Steady (1971)
- Son of a Preacher Man
- Runnin' Out of Fools (TV's Shindig, 1964)
- Rolling in the Deep (Adelle, 2011)
Final Performance: NYC 11/7/2017
Urban Success Story
Ms. Franklin was born in a poor town in Tennessee, raised in Detroit, and has children beginning at age 12, but she kept coming back to focusing on faith, music, working for civil rights advancements, many of which she funded herself. She wanted to share all of it with her fans and she did.
Aretha Franklin changed music, furthered civil rights, and helped preserve Detroit. Let us remember what she did and find like causes we can support today.
Let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many many years. She will be missed but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a fine human being will live with us forever. Love Paul— Paul McCartney, 8/16/2018
- 11 changes that are transforming downtown Detroit right now. Michigan Live; 2016. www.mlive.com/business/index.ssf/2016/02/11_changes_that_are_transformi.html Retrieved August 15, 2018.
- Bradley, Ed. Aretha Franklin: 60 Minutes Interview; 1990. www.cbsnews.com/news/aretha-franklin-the-60-minutes-interview/ Retrieved August 15, 2018.
- McCollum, B. Aretha Franklin dies at 76: Detroit star transformed American music. Detroit Free Press; 2018. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
- Remnick, D. Soul Survivor. The New Yorker; 2016. www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/04/04/aretha-franklins-american-soul Retrieved August 15, 2018.
© 2018 Patty Inglish MS