I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know the music and artistry of Aretha Franklin. I can honestly say that I’ve always heard her music playing in my house, the homes of family and friends, around in my neighborhood and especially on the radio. I was probably about five or six years old when I could associate her name to the music. And when she came out with the hits “Freeway of Love” and “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me,” I can remember singing these songs in the school yard with my little friends.
I was probably a teenager when I started understanding that Aretha sang songs that spoke about the woman’s experience in love and life. I was probably in college when I learned about her work in Civil Rights and that her music transcended the black woman’s experience and was loved and cherished by women of all colors across the world.
Over the years I have studied Aretha’s music from the beginning of her career to the present. Having a musical career that began when she was a teenager and spans over 60 years, the breadth of her catalog covers just about every musical genre. There were so many amazing qualities about Aretha and her musicianship it is hard to narrow it down to a few factors that made her extraordinary.
Not only she was a gifted singer and musician but she was also a composer and songwriter. She created magnificent original compositions and turned the creations of other songwriters into her own personal musical standards, so much so that we often forget that her versions were indeed covers. Think, “Say A Little Prayer for You,” and “Respect,” “Natural Woman,” among others.
For some of our icons, they have had such long and illustrious careers that we forget what they have overcome and how much they have accomplished in their lifetime. And for me, Aretha is one of those icons. She’s always been Aretha, she’s always been the Queen. Throughout her life and her career, she was truly a phenomenal woman.
I watched all nine hours of her funeral—-a funeral fit for a royal—to pay tribute. I’m thankful that we had her and that she shared her gift with the world. Now, I know that she is at peace with God in Heaven.
May you rest in peace, Aretha.
1 September 2018