Aretha was authentic – like Elvis. That scared the hell out of people. The truth always does….
“…we want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.” – Malcolm X.
At the end of his long running eponymous music program, the late Don Cornelius always ended his program with this reminder of three of life’s important elements:
No one epitomized that Don Cornelius reminder of those important elements than Aretha Franklin, who died today and whose passing takes from us one who was undoubtedly the greatest singer of her generation and whose talent influenced singers ranging from Janis Joplin to Adele.
Aretha, like the iconic music figure with whom she, sadly, shares a death date, Elvis Presley, now belongs to the ages. But it’s important to consider what Elvis and Aretha share beyond the date of their passing into history. Both figures, enormously talented singers, achieved iconic status for bringing to a larger world music and cultural considerations that had long been ignored because racism and sexism dominated the worlds they were born into in ways that made their music carry more powerful messages – and greater burdens – than either of them would ever have intentionally pursued. Both of them, after all, wanted to be what they were – musicians and artists. Both of them strove to be authentic. At reaching that lofty (and perhaps Utopian) goal of authenticity, ultimately Elvis failed and Aretha succeeded.
The struggles of both have made for many volumes on Presley and will make for many on Franklin. Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n Roll. Aretha, the Queen of Soul. “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” the guy who could be called the King of Literature reminds us. But on this sad day, it’s important to remember why those volumes have been or will be written. Continue reading