Remembering the Queen of Soul
by Jason Gross & Robin Cook
Who was Aretha? You could say that she was:
* the ultimate diva
* a multi-decade spanning hit-maker
* one of the greatest voices of the 20th century
* an amazing interpreter
* all of the above & more
All true but all worth delving deeper to see what made Re unique beyond these incredible achievements.
* She was a diva, perhaps the diva, but what does that mean? It was presence, attitude and more that she exuded.
* She had a great voice but it was what she did with it that made her singing so amazing as she wasn't just using it to show off- compare to some modern day divas who do solos and waver through high notes, paying tribute to her.
* Her style was obviously soul but also drew heavily on early R&B roots and gospel (thanks in part to her dad) and jazz, which she explored in her early career on Columbia Records.
* In the '60's, Stax and Motown (maybe excepting Mary Wells and Carla Thomas) didn't push solo female singers as strong solo artists in the same way that Aretha made herself felt on Atlantic. It was only later when Diana Ross was elevated that they tried to match her.
* Arguably, unlike many '60's Motown artists who let label call their shots and let the label create the sound for them, when Aretha hit Atlantic Records, she was a creature of her own creation- Stevie and Marvin had to wait until the '70's for that.
* Even when interpreting other's songs, she was in control- she played piano on her own sessions, chose songwriters, arranged her music with band, though as author Richie Unterberger notes, "she did have a lot of vital support from producers, some songwriters she covered, and session musicians." And yes, look at how she turned "Respect" into something different and even more powerful than what Otis Redding meant.
* Unlike most other '60's female singers, she didnít come across as kittenish or put upon or passive. Many times, she was tough and no-nonsense in way that few others dared to be. Janis Joplin is the great exception and also as as author Pat Thomas notes "Nina Simone was a badass from the beginning." Arguments boosting early Tina Turner are welcome too.
To further honor her work, we'd like to direct you also to some wonderful tributes to her to her elsewhere online. Along with some good bio sum-up's, there's other ways to honor the Queen here: how her music became famous samples, her greatest album covers, her best deep cuts, her civil rights legacy and some historic moments on film/video, especially featuring 'that hat' from the Obama inauguration.
As Gram Parsons would say, she was god's own singer.
* Travis M. Andrews "How Aretha Franklin overcame difficult personal moments to become a legendary singer" (Washington Post, August 17, 2018)
* BBC documentary on Aretha
* DeNeen L. Brown "How Aretha Franklinís ĎRespectí became an anthem for civil rights and feminism" (Washington Post, August 16, 2018)
* Dream Hampton "'Black People Will Be Free': How Aretha Lived The Promise Of Detroit" (NPR, August 16, 2018)
* Ed Bradley "Aretha Franklin names her favorite songs" (60 Minutes, October 14, 1990) (NOTE: because of copyright, the full interview goes online and offline frequenlty)
* The Fader "Beyond "Respect": deeper cuts from Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul" (The Fader, August 16, 2018)
* David Griner "Aretha Franklin Was a Pioneer of Pop Culture and an Advertising Icon for 50 Years" (AdWeek, August 16, 2018)
* Barack Obama honors Aretha on Facebook (August 16, 2018)
* Eugene Robinson "The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen." (Washington Post, August 16, 2018)
* VF Team "Aretha Franklinís most striking record covers" (Vinyl Factory, August 16, 2018)
* VF Team "The sample legacy of Aretha Franklin" (Vinyl Factory, August 22, 2018)
Aretha serenades the Pope
Stevie Wonder holds back tears as he describes his last moments with Aretha Franklin: "She wasn't able to speak back, but her family felt that she could hear me." https://t.co/VMkXsMk3cJ (via @CBSThisMorning) pic.twitter.com/NKYjiuJmOt— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 17, 2018
* Ben Yakas "New Yorkers Put Up More Aretha Franklin Tributes In Subway Stations" (Gothamist, August 17, 2018)
* Warren Zanes remembers Aretha (Facebook post, August 18, 2018)
Long live #ArethaFranklin Street. #RIP to the true lady legend of song. pic.twitter.com/GDaLukCfMg— doNYC (@doNYC) August 16, 2018
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