Words by Cameron Higgins
Aretha Franklin, the inimitable Queen of Soul, went to her final rest today at seventy-six years young. Marked by a fusion of spiritually-charged of gospel vibes, with the sensuality of R&B and universal appeal of pop music, Franklin’s entire musical career is one long success story. Moreover, her music is not just entertainment: it remains a source of solidarity and inspiration for the ongoing feminist and civil rights movements. Her famous tune “Respect” is a notable example of this: originally penned by Otis Redding as a ballad about a man coming home at the end of a workday, wanting respect from his wife, Aretha flipped the script and belted out the tune that would become an anthemic reflection of the struggle marginalized peoples face for that most basic human courtesy: respect. “Natural Woman,” the deeply-felt meditation on fully actualized love continues to serve as an inspirational vision of what interpersonal romance can achieve. Her performance of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” at President Obama’s inauguration was a moment in American history and nearly jerked tears from the eyes of the coolest president to ever grace this nation.
Aretha Franklin embodied America’s better angels. She lived out the potential of the twentieth century’s social justice movements. And like any angel, the perennially-devout, yet deeply worldly artist returned to her home today: the world of spirit, myth, legend, and legacy.
She will be sorely missed.
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