Written by Julia Antonson
Today is the day that the original queen of pop, Aretha Franklin, is born. Happy 73 years on Earth and I hope you do not get out of breathe blowing out all of those candles! Wait, never mind, you must have accumulated some strong lungs belting out all of those notes over your career.
In my weird obsessive state of listening to the queens of soul, I cannot help but praise Aretha for her accomplishments in her lifetime and the legacy she left behind. Her dedication to the art is seen through her countless hours spent writing material that would eventually transform into hits on the US and UK charts. As a reward for her hard work, Aretha Franklin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and was the first female performer to be welcomed at that time. In addition, she has honorary degrees from Harvard, Princeton, and Yale and she sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” in Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. What have you done in your lifetime?
Now I can’t go on without touching on “Respect” and its impact during that time. Originally released by Otis Redding in 1965, it is a version of a man’s plea and promise to give his woman anything she wants. However, in 1967 with the help of Atlantic Records, a few lyric changes, and an alternative version of music, Aretha turned the song into a strong declaration of a woman who, to put it in today’s terminology, don’t need no man. It is no wonder how “Respect” became a breakthrough in the Feminist and African American Rights Movement occurring in the 1960s in its calling for universal respect and eventually earned her two Grammys in 1968.
Aretha Franklin’s timeless voice will carry on forever. One can label her voice as a fusion of gospel combined with the sensual side of R&B and the novelty of jazz. What allowed Aretha to have such a strong career are her deep gospel roots attributed to her singing gospel during her youth at her father’s church in Detroit, Michigan. But hands down, Aretha is able to stand out from the rest of the crowd by her attention to detail: knowing the right amount of soul and the right moment to add it to a song. And that is what stood out to me when I was younger and listened to “Respect” for the first time on my trusty Now That’s What I Call Music.
So as you go to sleep tonight, give a little thanks to the woman who helped you spell respect when you were younger. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.