Aretha Franklin, (1942-2018), was more than the queen of soul music. To those of us who grew up listening to her interpret life and drop pearls of wisdom through song, she was the final word.
Through song, Aretha taught us to speak up and demand R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Through song, she taught us to tell our man to “THINK” before doing us wrong, because there would be consequences.
Through song, Aretha taught us about living together in one America. She used the words of “America The Beautiful”(lyrics by Katharine Lee Bates), the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., and her own words to school us to the fact that the America of Walt Whitman (“I Hear America Singing”) and the America of Langston Hughes (“I, Too”) are one and the same.
When Aretha sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” at the Inauguration of President Barack Obama, she sang of an inclusive America. She sang of the land where her Father died. She sang of the land that the European pilgrims took such pride in. She sang about the America from “the red hills of Georgia” to the shining sea–the America of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream.
The Queen is gone, but she left her music as a lodestar.
May she rest in peace.