When I heard the news that Aretha Franklin passed away, I immediately felt saddened and hurt. I never met her. I’ve never been to concerts; just only seen performances on television but to hear that we lost another great legend filled me with grief. Why is that? Why does that happen when a celebrity, particularly when it’s a singer passes away? Aretha Franklin didn’t know of my existence and I didn’t know her personally but her music and talent made you feel like you did. A song would come on and her powerful instrument would soar on the radio waves and you could feel that. Every note, every melody, every run -I felt them in my being. I felt the same way with James Brown, Aaliyah, Selena, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and of course Prince. Music just does something to you.
We all know the classics, Chain of Fools, Think featuring the Blues Brothers, Rock Steady, Say a Little Prayer, Freeway of Love, Natural Woman, and of course, the ultimate woman empowering song that every little girl, woman, sister, wife, and mother have sang –R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I love all these and have sang all of these in my car, shower, or an occasional karoke session. Yes -I must have been crazy thinking I could join some friends and get on a stage IN FRONT OF PEOPLE and belt out Natural Woman. Luckily it wasn’t just me and we didn’t get booed off stage. That was years ago; my past life. Anyway -my two favorite Aretha Franklin songs, I played non stop in high school: A Rose is Still a Rose and the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack song It Hurts Like Hell.
A Rose is Still a Rose came out 1998 produced by the wonderful Lauryn Hill of the Fugees. At this time, I was a sophomore in high school and dating this guy. I remember we were talking about hanging out and he kept bringing sex into the conversation. At that time I was a virgin and although I really liked him, I wasn’t ready for all of that. He brought up again and I said you know what a rose is still a rose and I hold the power. Thinking about it today, 35 year old me is very proud of the 15-16 year old me but can you imagine what a high school boy would think hearing that? I’m laughing as I’m writing this imagining his face like well damn. The song, the lyrics, the video –all of it was so real and spoke to the young and shy me and made me feel better about my decision of not having sex before I was ready.
It Hurts Like Hell as I said came out on the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack back in 1995. I remember hearing it while in the theater. It played during the scene when Bernadine was with James in the hotel room and they’re talking about his wife that’s dying. Bernadine says it hurts like hell, cue the music and Aretha’s voice just ascends and fills the scene with the sunlight that shines on the two of them. The music fit the shot so perfectly that I fell in love with the song. Fast forward five years and I’m in high school. I’ve been dating this guy (not the same guy from before lol) and for some reason our relationship isn’t as great as it was when we first started out. I can tell that his feelings are fading and I remember sitting in my room thinking about him and us (shoutout to Brandy for her track Sittin’ Up in My Room on the same album. Another great song!) and I turn on the radio. This song comes on and I immediately start to cry. I just laid in my bed in the dark and all I could hear were my soft cries under Aretha’s strength and power of a voice. I broke up with him the next day in a letter. Throughout said letter, I used lyrics from the song. Yes -I was that type of girl.
So Aretha, Re-Re as you have been affectionately called through the years, your music will forever be a staple not only in the Black community but the world. I thank you for what your music has done for me and my life events. I am sending peace and love to you and…in between your choir directing with Luther and Whitney and Marvin, if you send your voice down during a calm rain or in a dream, I would greatly appreciate it.