Paying Our Respects to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin
All of us at CHCF are mourning the passing of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, a powerful and emotional singer whose gospel-infused pop and R & B songs gave passionate voice to the experience of being a woman — and being an African American woman — at a time when feminism and civil rights were becoming significant social movements. Soon after she took the stage in the 1960s, Franklin’s extraordinary talents were celebrated around the world. She scored hit after hit, received 18 Grammy awards, and earned the reverence of world leaders, fellow musical artists, and millions of ordinary people who listened to her for decades.
Franklin was 76 when she died of pancreatic cancer on August 16. In her final days she was able to take advantage of hospice care, allowing her to die in the comfort of her Detroit home, surrounded by family and friends.
Here is one of her greatest recent live performances, a 2015 appearance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, where she sang “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” for President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and the song’s composer, Carole King.
In 2016, President Obama said this about Franklin to a reporter from the New Yorker: “Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African American spiritual, the blues, R & B, rock and roll — the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope. American history wells up when Aretha sings. That’s why, when she sits down at a piano and sings ‘A Natural Woman,’ she can move me to tears — the same way that Ray Charles’s version of ‘America the Beautiful’ will always be in my view the most patriotic piece of music ever performed — because it captures the fullness of the American experience, the view from the bottom as well as the top, the good and the bad, and the possibility of synthesis, reconciliation, transcendence.”
There will never be another like Aretha Franklin.