Of course all the usual suspects were there, the ones with names that you never forget: Quincy, Michael, Diana et al, at least I guess they were there because in actuality I did forget who did show up except for one big and fat woman who seemed stressed in all the wrong places with strange clothing that no one could recognize. Arnessia, a co-worker asked me who I thought it was. I said, “Next” as in the most obvious person next to die. It was about 5 minutes later when someone said that the unknown lady was Aretha.
Looking back I think I might have been a little callous in my assessments.
Aretha Franklin, who knew then that she would be invited to the Inauguration of the 1st black President of the United States or there would even be a 1st black President of the United States. Who knew then that more people would talk about her hat rather than the historical significance of her singing, “My country tis of thee,” on the steps of the Capitol. The same song that Martin Luther King had quoted from over 40 years earlier further down the Mall on the steps of The Lincoln Memorial, “Sweet land of liberty.” The same song that Marion Anderson had sung, but without the Anderson changes, at the Lincoln Memorial 70 years before after being invited by Mrs. Roosevelt to sing there when she had been refused permission to sing at Constitution Hall because of her race, “of thee I sing.” Who knew that she would become part of a historic moment that had come full circle?
As almost everyone knows, Aretha has been ill recently but I saw a tribute to her a few weekends ago on the Grammy Awards ceremony and I thought she looked good. Although getting sick is one hell of a way to lose weight. How many of those Grammys does she have anyway? I guess when you are recognized as the Queen of Soul all the facts and the figures, which one can find elsewhere, don’t really matter as long as she can express our sadnesses and still bring joy and peace and redemption to her listeners.
I hope things turn out well for her and us. I really do.
Aretha Franklin Tribute (Live at Grammy Awards 2011)
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