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Aretha Franklin is gone, but her influence is here to stay.
Aretha Franklin is a woman who needs little introduction. With a powerhouse of a voice, Franklin powered her way into popular culture whether people wanted to listen or not. Recently, she passed away age 76.
Fighting for civil and woman’s rights, she was kickass as much as she was talented. There’s a lot to why Franklin is more than the woman who sang ‘Respect’ (as good as that song is). She’s an iconic figure for many things, and here’s a reminder why.
‘Respect’, 11th International Jazz Festival, Antibes, 1970
While it’s certainly not her only hit, it’s become near-ubiquitous in pop culture for a reason. Originally, ‘Respect’ was done by Otis Redding. The song is about a man who comes home after working hard for money only to find a wife who – guess what? – doesn’t respect him enough. Brilliantly, Franklin reworked the song from the perspective of a woman and this version was took off. Not only was it a commercial hit, but with all the social upheaval of the time the song took on a political dimension. Plus, it’s damn catchy.
‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’, 11th International Jazz Festival, Antibes, 1970
Franklin signed with Atlantic Records and went on to sing globally. She was especially drawn to France, as seen by her performances in Antibes. ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ was a Rolling Stones hit and, Aretha frankly (I’m sorry), she killed it.
‘I Say A Little Prayer’, 1970
In the 1960s, Hal David wrote ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ and somehow it landed at the feet of Franklin. The song was written about a woman worrying for her partner going to fight in the Vietnam War. has It wasn’t intended for her at all, but it ended up a number 1 hit anyway. It is, indeed, a bop.
‘Amazing Grace’, New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, Los Angeles, 1972
Franklin’s father was a pastor, so even from a young age her music was intertwined with church. Although she later dived into soul, she never forgot her gospel roots, as shown by this 1972 recording of ‘Amazing Grace’.
‘Nessun Dorma’, Grammy Awards, Los Angeles, 1998
In 1998, opera singer Luciano Pavarotti cancelled several hours before his performance due to vocal issues. Luckily, Franklin was there to steal the show, and was obviously flawless. The way the singer was able to deftly weave through gospel, soul, rock, and opera, shows how music was so clearly a part of her. Your fave could never. (Kidding, I just think she’s pretty neat.)
‘America’, Inauguration of Barack Obama, Washington D.C., 2009
Whatever your opinions on Obama may be, this was a truly historic moment for obvious reasons.
‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’, Kennedy Center, Washington D.C., 2015
Finally, her performance of a classic at the Kennedy Center. This came 21 years after initially being awarded the Kennedy Center Honor for her influence to American culture. Obviously, Franklin’s talent doesn’t start and end with this list, so I encourage you to dive deeper into her work and her history. We’ve lost a legend, but kept her beauty.
Do you have a passion for music? Maybe you need help to discover whether it should be a career or a hobby.