The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, gained her wings this morning. After a battle with pancreatic cancer, Aretha has died at 76 years old. Best known for the soul-stirring “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” the singer joins other greats who died on the same date such as the King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Pressley, who died 41 years ago today and Babe Ruth, the baseball legend who died 70 years ago. Aretha left this world with numerous hits and soundbites that will live on forever.
Ms. Aretha reserved her place in history by exploring the secular sweet spot between sultry rhythm-and-blues and the explosive gospel music she had grown up singing in her father’s Baptist church. She was brilliantly bold and an inspiration to many. The Queen made music that was rooted in a healthy self-esteem for not only herself and the black community, but music lovers at large. This legend made females across the globe feel like a “natural woman” with feminist anthems that gave unprecedented voice to black women in particular.
Known for style and flair, while singing at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, the musician drew more attention to a custom-made hat with a large bow and crystals than her voice. Nevertheless, the soulful sound of her voice rang out loud and strong. Most known as the Queen of Soul, in 1968, when explaining the emotion many felt when singing, Aretha said:
Soul to me is a feeling, a lot of depth and being able to bring to the surface that which is happening inside, to make the picture clear. Many people can have soul. It’s just the emotion and the way it affects people.
When speaking of her “Royal” status to music lovers in and outside of the entertainment industry, the Hall of Fame singer said:
It’s an acknowledgment of my art. It means I am excelling at my art and my first love. And I am most appreciative. Being the Queen is not all about singing, and being a diva is not all about singing. It has much to do with your service to people, and your social contributions to your community and civic contributions as well.
Just as many musical legends, Ms. Franklin began singing in church. Also, a gifted pianist, Aretha’s journey is not without struggle, but she never allowed challenges to halt her love for entertaining and empowering her fans. Her career was placed on hold when, twice during her teen years, she became pregnant and dropped out of school. By the age of 15, she had two sons, Clarence and Edward. However, when the songwriter returned to the scene, she shifted her focus from gospel music to secular but maintained her gospel sounding roots.
In an upcoming biopic, the singer’s story will hit the big screen. Jennifer Hudson, queen of the five-octave vocal range, is humbled and honored to have the lead role in the film. Already an Oscar winner, the former “American Idol” contestant may actually be the only star well-suited enough to harness the powerful performance needed to give the role the justice it deserves.
Franklin’s “Respect” became a transformative moment, not only in her career but also in the women’s rights and the civil rights movement. Her style and ability are both a force to be reckoned with. Aretha Franklin may have gained her wings this morning, but the impact she made in the music industry will live on forever.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
WKYT: ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin has passed away
USA Today: Elvis Presley died 41 years ago today: Fans gather at Graceland for vigil
Washington Post: Aretha Franklin, music’s ‘Queen of Soul,’ dies at 76
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