Today is the day Aretha Franklin will be laid to rest with all the pomp and ceremony befitting the Queen of Soul.
I like to think of Aretha singing her heart out in the afterlife just as singing defined her wonderful life on earth.
That voice! Silky smooth and earthy and set-your-heart-aflutter unique. It’s no wonder that after having sung ‘My Country ’Tis of Thee’ at his inauguration in 2009, she reduced President Obama to tears when she then sang, ‘A Natural Woman’ at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015.
Aretha’s life was all about performance. Born in Memphis to a father who was a well-known preacher, she cut her teeth in music as young as ten years old, singing gospel and playing the piano. By 14 she had recorded her first album and in 1961 moved from gospel to pop. And she stayed there for decades at the forefront of the entertainment industry, with only a brief lull in her teenage years (she was a mother of two by 15) and in the 1970s, before a role in The Blues Brothers (1980) re-ignited her career again and there was no looking back.
She was a true diva (witness that coat at the Kennedy Center event…) and we loved her for it because she had the raw talent to match the attitude. She became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Rolling Stone ranked her as the no.1 greatest singer of all time. Not surprising when she could claim 18 Grammys (the first one was won for ‘Respect’), 20 no.1 Billboard singles and 45 songs that had reached the Top 40.
In the end, Aretha lived a quiet life of near-seclusion at her home in Detroit.
76 years old seems young to leave us but Aretha be sure that we are all saying a little prayer for you.