The legendary ‘Queen of Soul’, Aretha Franklin, lost her battle with pancreatic cancer and made her transition at her home in Detroit on August 16, 2018 at the age of 76. The anointed vocalist-songwriter rose to super-stardom with a wave of gospel-infused soul music across multiple genres during the 20th and 21st century, and has been generally acknowledged as the greatest singer in the history of postwar music.
The ‘Queen of Soul’ was born Aretha Louise Franklin in 1942 to Baptist Preacher Clarence La Vaughan “C. L.” Franklin and Barbara Vernice Siggers in Memphis, Tennessee. The Reverend later served as the minister of New Bethany Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where he gained national prominence. Singing gospel as a child began her career as a vocalist and her efforts as a self-taught piano prodigy, leading to her first record deal at the age of eighteen.
Over the course of Aretha’s 60-year-plus career–selling more than 75 million albums–she was honored with numerous accolades: as the most charted female for over 40 years, she made billboard history; the first woman inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and 18 Grammy Awards; she performed for three presidents’ inaugurations; she was the recipient of the National Arts Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom along with countless other awards.
Brilliantly entertaining kings, dignitaries, celebrities, civil rights leaders and countless fans alike, Aretha transcended race, gender and religion with her angelic vibrance. Her spiritually uplifting voice inspired the civil rights movement as well her financial benevolence. Unapologetically black, Aretha’s entrenchment in the southern freedom movement led to her support of progressive politics throughout her life.
Oppulent. Grandiose. Powerful. The Queen was the “Regal Deal.” Her heartwarming sound resonated with authenticity down to every riff and if you ever heard her, you craved for more of her sweet vocal elegance. Masterfully bending notes to her soulful will, you journeyed to a place where history resides. Within her intelligent arrangement could be heard the wails of injustice, the battle cries of an era as well lessons about love and hopeful possibilities of our uncertain tomorrows. The Queen could bring any man to tears, including the leader of the free world, President Barack Obama.
In Aretha’s private life we see another side to the multidimensional woman. She was the matriarch of the family, the mother of four, a civil rights activist and largely committed to her faith. Empathetic to the disenfranchised, she was a philanthropist–oftentimes anonymous. Franklin’s way of life was the complete embodiment of feminism long before its popularity, striving for economic, social and political equality. While Aretha’s passion for music drove her to break barriers, she was no stranger to personal troubles. In her quiet dignity, she endured and persisted.
A LOVING FAREWELL
Touching our hearts as if a bridge over troubled waters, Aretha spoke to the world’s need through her song and we are the inheritors of her iconic example. Living life to its fullest, Your Highness leaves a musical legacy comprising indelibly ingrained messages to live by. When I hear her singing “THINK” issues of lifestyle, health, spirituality and community come to mind. Classics like “RESPECT,” not only have been deemed a woman’s anthem, but required action, one man to another. The ‘Gift’ of Her Majesty will keep on giving as the breadth of her music continues to unfold for generations to come. We honor and celebrate “The Queen.” Rest in Peace.