I’m saddened today to read of the death of Aretha Franklin, my favourite soul singer who had been gifted with such a powerful voice. She’d had health issues since 2011 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but had continued to tour and perform, even up until November last year at the age of 75.
The daughter of a Baptist preacher, she sang solos as a child in her father’s church, and had given birth to 2 sons by the time she was 16, who were raised by Aretha’s grandmother so that she could focus on her singing career (two more sons followed in 1964 and 1970). In 1987 she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1994 she received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement. In 2005 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her voice was declared a ‘natural resource’ in 1985 by Michigan state’s Department of Natural Resources.
Her version of ‘Respect’ (originally penned by Otis Redding), which she sang in the 1980 Blues Brothers film, became an anthem for women’s rights, shooting to No.1 in the US charts.
One of my favourite songs is the duet Aretha performed with George Michael; ‘I Knew You Were Waiting For Me’. Another – ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman‘ – once reduced President Obama to tears when she sang it at a Kennedy Center Honours ceremony. What a voice – what a talent! She will be sadly missed.
Rest in peace Aretha.