What Ms. Aretha Franklin Meant To Me (1942 – 2018) – Jacana Books
Arts and Culture

What Ms. Aretha Franklin Meant To Me (1942 – 2018)

She was a lot to so many people. A mother to African American women and to all women who heard her sing of strength, love and a broken heart.  Her song RESPECT in 1967, gave the civil rights movement a boost and a force that still resonates when that song is sung. Historians and commentators say she helped ‘power the march to civil liberties’.  There has never been a voice like hers and it is certain there will never be anyone like her. She was a diva and a voice of courage and endurance to black women all over the world.  18 Grammies and 44 Grammy nominations,   20 Number 1 Billboard singles, 45 songs in the top 40 Billboards. She was indisputably the most powerful voice in music creating a legacy that would span six decades.

She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. She used her voice to crash through barriers becoming the first to achieve so many first as a black artiste. She was the first woman to be inducted in the Rockingroll Hall of Fame.  Miss Franklin pulled her self back so many times as she battled teenage pregnancy, personal demons of depression, weight problems and ill health.  She is survived by four sons and millions of fans around the world.

In 1999, my boyfriend played the track ‘I Say A Little Prayer For You’ in his car as he drove us to an eatery on our first date.  I never forgot the song. Miss Aretha Franklin, singer and soul writer became a friend for life.  A couple of years later, shortly after I had my baby, I heard  Miss Franklin’s rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’. The song touched me in a way I can not describe. My baby is called Amazing Grace.

On Facebook, many people posted tributes and prayers to Miss Franklin’s family. Marie- Anna Guelton wrote:’Legend, icon, once in a lifetime artist. I have been listening to you since I was a teenager. You will be greatly missed...’ Jameel Ameen wrote: “Aretha Franklin was everything, our Queen, and my imagination never stretched to a world without her in it. This is a sad day. The most important singer of the last 60 years. There is Popular music before Aretha, and then after. She changed the landscape”.  There are thousands of tributes to the superstar and legend who touched us all from around the world.

She was born Aretha Louise Franklin March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee.  She died August 16, 2018, from advanced pancreatic cancer.  Aretha Franklin was already a well-respected R&B soul singer in the 1960s, but her 1967 recording of the Otis Redding song “Respect,” from her hit album, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and launched her to new heights of mainstream acclaim and popularity.     Her first Grammy wins came for 1967 for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording and Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Female for “Respect.”  She debuted as a Grammy performer at the 13th Grammys in 1971 in 1971, singing Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

In 2014 Franklin had an asteroid, “249516 Aretha,” named after her. Franklin received The Recording Academy’s  Grammy Legend Award in 1991. She was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994. She has five recordings in the Grammy Hall of Fame, “Respect,” “Chain Of Fools,” “Amazing Grace,” “A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like),” and “I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You.”

Aretha Franklin/Facebook

In 2015, she made President Obama emotional with her rendition of ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural woman’  at the Kennedy Centre Honours. President Barack Obama wrote earlier today on Twitter: ‘Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace‘. On his Facebook page, he eulogized Miss Franklin. This is what he said: ‘ America has no royalty. But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring. Born in Memphis and raised in Detroit, Aretha Franklin grew up performing gospel songs in her father’s congregation. For more than six decades since, every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine. Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance. Aretha may have passed on to a better place, but the gift of her music remains to inspire us all. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. Michelle and I send our prayers and warmest sympathies to her family and all those moved by her song’.

Aretha Franklin/Facebook

Michelle Obama on Twitter said: Watching Aretha Franklin perform at the White House, and on so many other occasions, made time stand still. and I are holding Aretha’s family in our hearts right now. She will forever be our Queen of Soul.

President Bill Clinton on Twitter posted “Like people all around the world, Hillary and I are thinking about Aretha Franklin tonight & listening to her music that has been such an important part of our lives the last 50 years. We hope you’ll lift her up by listening and sharing her songs that have meant the most to you.

Claire McCaskill: ‘Respect. You and your music lifted me up many many times during difficult times in my life. It was always hard for me to stay down while listening to you. I Say a Little Prayer for You. Thank you, Aretha’.

Kevin Hart on his Instagram handle said: RIP……..Gone but never forgotten!!! Thank you!!!

Tyler Perry: ‘No more fear of flying my friend. You’ve got angel wings now. Thank you for your life and the legacy of music that you have left for us all. It will leave forever. 1942-2018.

Oprah said on Instagram:’ No wonder how many great singers and voices there will always be 1 Queen 

Bishop Td Jakes sent his condolences to the family with this post on his Instagram handle: It is with deep sadness and a heavy heart that Serita and I mourn a voice that resides throughout time – seemingly without beginning or end.  Ms. Aretha Franklin is rightfully the Queen of Soul, but she was so much more to so many more.  Birthed in the church with an undeniable resonance that crossed genres, race, and generations.  Anyone who knew her or saw her perform knows that she was apt to belt out several gospel songs as she served the broader audience. She was a musical genius who informed so many artists and virtually changed the sound of popular music singlehandedly with the stoke of a piano key and the unmistakable voice that followed.  Although she is absent in body, she is present with the Lord, and we are so thankful for the gift that she has given us.  As someone who knew and worked with her closely, she left an indelible mark on all who had the privilege of being in her extraordinary presence. She was an original, and we will miss her.

May her beautiful soul rest in peace. Here is one of our favourites songs, Amazing Grace.




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