For a white East German woman behind the proverbial Iron Curtain, my mother sure had a wealth of knowledge and respect for strong black woman.
The African American Struggle was not unknown in East Germany and names like Angela Davis, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Mahalia Jackson, and Aretha Franklin were not strange in our home.
I grew up knowing Aretha as the Queen.
She was one of those voices you could always recognize. She effortlessly belted out notes others could only dream of hitting. And sang words that women only dreamed of saying.
I remember listening to a song once with my cousin and when Aretha came on in her full glory, he said “Ha! You know my girl!” Because you did! She always delivered. She never disappointed.
As a teen in the eighties, a lot of names became stories about what used to be. But not Aretha. Through the decades, she always remained relevant as she stayed seated….Elegant, Strong, Sexy, Beautiful, Powerful….on the Throne.
In the 80’s she collaborated with the greats of the time and stood her ground, winning Grammies and Top 10’s; she was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; her voice was legally declared one of Michigan’s natural resources,
In the 90s she performed with other Divas on VH1 and out shone them all; she sang one of Pavarotti’s signature pieces filling in for him without rehearsal when he was ill; she honored others and was herself honored at the Kennedy Center,
In the 2000’s she sang at 2 presidential inaugurations (by the way, she sang for Jimmy Carter in 1977 as well); she was given a well-deserved Presidential Medal for Freedom; she sang in front of Pope Francis,
Now, with her passing, articles talk about her private struggles and pain, which make her even more of an amazing human being to behold.
She has left us, but her songs will play on forever, on our radios, our playlists and in Heaven where she is undoubtedly out-singing the Angels right now being a SUPER-“Natural Woman”! (Okay, so that was a little corny but you get it :-))
I say my farewell here by sharing the following three videos from the 80’s. I chose them because, although I grew up hearing all her old songs, these are the songs that Aretha gave my generation at the time. And they were great! I am eternally grateful to have been born in a time when I could experience talent and grace such as hers. Rest in Peace, My Queen.
Sisters are doing it for themselves – With Annie Lennox celebrating Girl Power and Women’s Rights
I knew you were waiting – with George Michael. Two greats revered by the LGBT community and having a profound admiration for each other, a collaboration orchestrated by Clive Davis. (Read more about it here)
Freeway of Love – This song was the last of her 20 career #1 hits and earned her a 12th Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. It doesn’t say so anywhere, but I believe this to be an ode to her beloved hometown, Detroit. The video was shot entirely in Detroit, showing the Ford Production Plant.