Goodbye, Aretha!

Goodbye, Aretha!

My tribute to the Queen of Soul

The other day, I woke up to discover Aretha Franklin had died. The world feels different to me now. Whenever my life has needed a musical pick-me-up, I have always turned to Aretha and Janis. I can still turn to them, but they will never make another recording, just as Maya Angelou will never write another poem or William Trevor will never write another short story, Aretha and Janis have done all they are going to do.

Aretha has been with me since the 1960s. I cannot remember the recording that first got my attention. If memory serves, it was I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. That would have been 1967, and the year of the Detroit riots, the year of tanks in the streets and fires burning, the year of abiding by curfews and Aretha crying out in urgency, A Change is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke, 1964).

I loved Detroit in those days. The excitement was catching, and the music was unforgettable. There was dancing in the streets, concerts in the parks. Aretha was the Queen of Soul, and soul music was everywhere. Every weekend meant more music somewhere, and every venue was packed with loving fans. We were young, crying for change, and weeping over the losses we were far too inexperienced to have known or felt. Racial equality, gender equality, love, no war, legalization of marijuana, these were the issues on our minds. These songs made us weep and still do to this day. We had passion, and so did our music.

All things must change and end. Of this, I am certain. But thank goodness for recordings of music and for books and film. We can keep her with us always.


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