Aretha Franklin passed away this past Thursday, August 16th. Her influence on the world of music was monumental, the first woman voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the first (and undisputed) Queen of Soul, the first women to successfully fuse gospel and soul, winner of so many accolades and awards, an activist, a musically integral part of the Women and Civil Rights Movements. Her songs were full of pain, love, and hope.
Being that I was raised in a musical household, I remember hearing Aretha songs from waaay back and I was proud of myself when I learned how to spell R.E.S.P.E.C.T. But I didn’t really get into or appreciate her music until later, when I was heartbroken and trying to find music to match some of the moods that I was in. I remember hearing Bonnie Raitt saying that “I learned more about men from listening to Aretha Franklin than I could have ever learned from any man”. So I went back and listened and many times, closed my eyes, and said a silent “yep”, because I could totally relate.
Needless to say, the Aretha songs that really got to me on those times when I couldn’t think of how to move forward from a heartbreak are the ones that remain my favorites.
How many times have we walked straight into a wall (sometimes time and time again) when we were all into some man? Take “I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You”, I smile today on the birthday of a certain man for whom this song was tailor-made, and when I was convinced that everyone was wrong, and that we would be together forever. Yeah, yeah, I told myself this many many many times and, at first, I’d listen to this song with straight-up defiance, and then I’d only listen to the title of the song, as if to will him to straighten up and respect our relationship. As reality began to hit, I slowly realized that he would never change, ever. For a time, that was enough. But it took me listening to this song over and over and over, maaaany times, alone, not talking to Mama or sisters or friends or anyone, to get me to finally accept that this was over.
So many of Aretha songs STILL stop me in my tracks at certain times: “Ain’t No Way“, “Daydreaming” , “Oh Me Oh My, I’m A Fool for You Baby”, “Baby I Love You“, “Chain Of Fools“, “Until You Come Back To Me” along with the super classics “Respect“, “Natural Woman“, “Think“, “Dr. Feelgood“, “Do Right Woman Do Right Man” and so many more.
One of the greatest to ever sing it like it is, Aretha’s classic music will live forever and likely serve as Life Education for so many of us who are unable, or too embarrassed, or too messed up in love, to put their feelings into words…that is, until they can get their power back and most important, get their R-E-S-P-E-C-T back.
RIP Aretha Franklin.