Remembering Aretha Franklin

I saw Aretha Franklin perform once.

It was at the 1994 Jazz & Heritage Festival, my second such trip to New Orleans for what is arguably the greatest, annual music festival held on God’s green earth.

It goes without saying that, that year, Aretha was the headliner.

My friends and I had seats far, far away from the stage.  It was the winding-down hours of the Sunday show, the last Sunday of the two-week(end) festival but Aretha was not to missed.

We didn’t necessarily prioritize seeing Aretha as there were other acts we were far more interested but she was on our radar.  We made sure to catch her, even if it was from so many yards away.  We made sure to pay our respect.

She dressed in flowing robes and at that point in her life wasn’t exactly small in size.  Much like George Clinton who isn’t in the greatest shape either, but of equal genius and influence in the realm of rhythm and blues, we knew that her body was in no way to be made fun of, for her soul was far greater.  And her voice was unmistakable.  One got the impression she could have performed without a microphone and those in the back row could still have heard her loud and clear.

I saw Aretha Franklin in concert because I knew it was the right thing to do, like visiting an historical piece of art or traveling to a place that one rarely goes but frequently should.  Hers might just be the greatest recorded voice to ever sing a tune.  One could say that as unequivocally as saying Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player ever or Gretzky the greatest hockey player.  Her voice was inspirational, intimidating, awe-inspiring, the very definition of soulful.

Go ahead, have a listen.

I attended a funeral this morning.  The grandmother of a good friend had passed.  I went to console him and stand by his side… out of respect.  I listened to Aretha the whole ride there and the whole ride back.  It just seemed appropriate.  I don’t mean to make you feel sad, or even sadder now that she’s passed.  Aretha’s work is to be celebrated.  As with any passing, just because she’s gone doesn’t mean she is no longer with us.  Aretha’s presence will most certainly live forever.

I didn’t cry when I found out Aretha had died.  I knew she has been ill.  Her genius came from a generation long before mine.  Once I found out she had fallen ill, I watched Blues Brothers for the umpteen millionth time.  I was fading, it was late, but I made sure I stayed up until the Aretha scene… out of respect.

Aretha’s voice is unmistakable.  It is unforgettable.  I’m glad I got to see her perform that set in New Orleans.  I’m not bragging.  I’m not boasting.  I’m saying certain things in life are to be appreciated.

Aretha’s voice is undeniably one of them.

I was gonna write more about what Aretha meant. Then I ran into one of today’s top music critics, UPROXX’s Steven Hyden’s far more fitting tribute and figured I’d let him take over from here.

Remembering Aretha Franklin’s Greatest Live Performance Ever

18 thoughts on “Remembering Aretha Franklin

  1. Beautiful written my brotha. Undeniably, there will never be another like her. I remember when she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The first woman to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not black woman, but WOMAN! Her genius, music, and love for her fellow man will live with each and every one of us forever.!

  2. Her passing is a real loss to the world entertainment and music in general . Aretha Franklin is the most honored female artiste of all-time and with good reason .

  3. “The Bluuues Brothers?….Sheeeeeit. They still owe you money, fool.”

    Everyone raving about Ariana Grande’s Natural Woman tribute/cover on Fallon the other night. It was a nice gesture and she’s nicer to look at, but c’mon people…That PALED in comparison to Aretha’s version.

    ….I still can’t help but wanna get up and dance anytime Chain of Fools comes on. My mom used to play the shit out of that cut.

  4. Beautifully written Christopher. Touched my heart. And needless to say, for my generation she represented so many positive things, a strong and successful woman who changed peoples minds through her magical music / lyrics and performances. I’m so glad we got to see her at Obama’s swearing-in ceremony. The Queen of Soul was there to acknowledge and bless a moment in history that gave us all hope & will never be forgotten. I will miss her.

  5. The world just turned a darker shade of blue. I will find comfort in the fact that we were graced with such beauty. I am a collector of classic vinyl and I drowned my sorrows while listening to Aretha’s Live at Fillmore West. Rest in peace your majesty.

  6. Black…

    Fiddling around on the internet last night, I found an old Rolling Stone article put out back in 2010 listing the greatest 100 rock and roll voices of all time.

    Aretha was number one back then as if there was ever a doubt.

    I’ve been groovin’ to more of her more obscure hits since her passing and they’re just as damn good as the popular ones.

  7. Al…

    The Rolling Stone article I was just telling Black about said this about Aretha…

    “She is the reason why women want to sing.”

    I can’t say too many would disagree.

  8. Bleed…

    That Blues Brothers scene is totally bad ass. Heck, even when she spoke, she had a wailing voice.

    Yea, even if I were one of the top female artists out there, while I’d want to pay her a fitting tribute, I’m not so sure I’d want to cover one of her songs.

    Like Carly Simon once sang about James Bond, nobody does it better.

  9. MoS…

    People were requesting I play her music in the bar this week. Again, if you’re in the mood, try grooving to some of her more obscure stuff. Just as solid as they stuff we all know by heart.

  10. PK….

    For some reason, much of that trip is a blur. But I was there and you couldn’t have been far behind.

    Unless you pulled a Stevie Ray that day… which I don’t think you did.

  11. Deac….

    Not too sure we have recording artists like that anymore. Not too sure there’s a market for it.

    If you feel up to it, check out Leon Bridges new album. It’s in the same vein and pretty damn good.

  12. A Lou Falino sighting. Blast from the past! To what do I owe the pleasure.

    Two things.

    First, I loved the article, particularly the Billy Preston quote at the end. Thanks for sharing.

    Second, I saw Def Leppard and Journey perform last night here in Tampa. Reminded me of our Nido days so damn much.

    Good damn times.

  13. It was recorded in 1971 and is truly the pride of my collection. I’ll be sure to give a listen to Mr. Bridges, maybe even add to my collection. Thanks brother and cheers!

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