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Aretha Franklin's Impact on Music is Unforgettable

Updated on August 17, 2018
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty reviews thousands of textbooks, novels, articles, music works, and films, but will one day write a book herself.

Advert photo for new song "Baby I Love You."
Advert photo for new song "Baby I Love You." | Source

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Figure of Aretha Franklin at Madame Tussaud's in New York City.
Source
Figure of Aretha Franklin at Madame Tussaud's in New York City.
Figure of Aretha Franklin at Madame Tussaud's in New York City. | Source

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
Jennifer Hudson at the 2013 Presidential Inauguration.
Jennifer Hudson at the 2013 Presidential Inauguration. | Source

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).

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Comerica Park entrance. Just the outside of the stadium is as good as a zoo or a museum. Comerica Park statue on the scoreboard.Play ball!
Comerica Park entrance. Just the outside of the stadium is as good as a zoo or a museum.
Comerica Park entrance. Just the outside of the stadium is as good as a zoo or a museum. | Source
Source
Comerica Park statue on the scoreboard.
Comerica Park statue on the scoreboard. | Source
Play ball!
Play ball! | Source

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.

Aretha is classic.  Here, Sgt. Andrea Griffith of the U.S. Army Europe Soldiers' Chorus sings "Think" by MS. Franklin during the Band and Chorus' performance at the 2017 Musikschau der Nationen (Music of the Nations) Jan. 27, 2017 in Bremen, Germany.
Aretha is classic. Here, Sgt. Andrea Griffith of the U.S. Army Europe Soldiers' Chorus sings "Think" by MS. Franklin during the Band and Chorus' performance at the 2017 Musikschau der Nationen (Music of the Nations) Jan. 27, 2017 in Bremen, Germany. | Source

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

  1. Think (especially her performance in The Blues Brothers of 1980)
  2. I'll Fly Away
  3. Chain of Fools (1967)
  4. Freeway of Love (1985)
  5. You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman); 1967
  6. Never Gonna Break My Faith (2006 with Mary J. Blige)
  7. Respect (1967)
  8. Rock Steady (1971)
  9. Son of a Preacher Man
  10. Runnin' Out of Fools (TV's Shindig, 1964)
  11. 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.

 Birthplace: 406 Lucy Ave Memphis TN
Birthplace: 406 Lucy Ave Memphis TN | Source

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
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Aretha Franklin performing in 2008.Aretha and Detroit both could say this.
Aretha Franklin performing in 2008.
Aretha Franklin performing in 2008. | Source
Aretha and Detroit both could say this.
Aretha and Detroit both could say this. | Source

Sources

  • 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

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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 days ago from Houston, Texas

      What a fabulous tribute you wrote to Aretha Franklin. She had a mighty spirit as well as a voice which will be long remembered. We are fortunate that we will be able to hear her songs long into the future. May she rest in peace.

    • Mark Tulin profile image

      Mark Tulin 

      5 weeks ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Chain of Fools is my favorite. A definite earworm for me.

    • profile image

      rebecca mealey 

      5 weeks ago

      What a great post, and a timely tribute to an American icon. I keep thinking of her in civil rights years and what she contributed to that culture.

    • angocman profile image

      Paula Aniks 

      5 weeks ago from London

      Thank you very much.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      5 weeks ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Patty......Stunning tribute to this fabulous icon! Aretha defies common words of description. She will live on for all time. Her music is straight from Heaven and her billions of fans will create an embrace of love & protection around every note of every song she ever sang.

      What amazing talent, what a woman of grace & dignity, may she rest in Peace & Light, as she remains in our hearts forever.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 weeks ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Does anyone have an especially favorite song performed by Aretha Franklin?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 weeks ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @Maria Jordan - I suppose some of us took her for granted and felt she'd live forever. All the adults from my childhood and teen years is leaving this world.

      @Eric Dierker - I appreciate your reading and leaving a comment.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 weeks ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @Ronald E Franklin - I have to convert my LPs to CDs soon so I can listen to Aretha more in the car!

      A friend of mine also named Franklin was an Elvis tribute artist before he passed away. I miss all these people.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 weeks ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @mckbirdbks - Thanks for reading! I think people are tripping all over that pile of crowns about now.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 weeks ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for all the great posts so far!

      @Mary Norton - Truth and justice are always in style, although some try to bury them. The risk of backlash is small when compared to the good we can do in this life, I think.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Beautiful tribute to Aretha Franklin. I'm also impressed with her abiding faith in God and her loyalty to Detroit.

    • Carolyn M Fields profile image

      Carolyn Fields 

      5 weeks ago from South Dakota, USA

      I learned recently that she also sang opera. She stepped in for Pavarotti when he was ill, saving the day - yet again.

      https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/m...

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you very much.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      5 weeks ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Beautiful tribute to a musical icon whose music will forever live on in our hearts.

      RIP and thank you for the gifts you have given us, dear Aretha.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      5 weeks ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      Like millions of others, today I'm thinking back to the impact Aretha had on my life over the years. When I was growing up I loved to refer to "my cousin Aretha" (we weren't actually related). It was automatic for me to buy each of her albums when it was released. And beyond her wonderful voice, her piano playing was so great I was inspired to try to emulate it. All props to Jennifer Hudson, but there will never be another Aretha.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 

      5 weeks ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Patty - Aretha Franklin was such an American icon, the the whole country is mourning her loss. You have done a wonderful tribute to the Queen of Soul.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      What a beautiful soul expressed in music which people all over the world loved. Aretha has lived a beautiful life and Patty, yes, let's take up the challenge that her life posed.

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