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Aretha Lives On

Marion Charatan

Posted on March 15, 2021 12:16

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Genius: Aretha premieres Sunday, March 21 at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET on the National Geographic Channel and will stream on Hulu.

Simply put, I will never get tired of listening to Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul's career spanned almost six decades. She began a recording career at 18 with Columbia Records in 1960. 

If you search Aretha on Microsoft Bing, lovely images of the late artist who succumbed to pancreatic cancer in August 2018, at 76, pop up on the right of your screen and a heading underneath says "American Singer." Aretha Louise Franklin was so much more. She was also a songwriter, pianist, actress, and civil rights activist. Her career flourished during the 60s and 70s, arguably, some of the best times in the music industry because songs were produced without as much technical intervention as today. Voices like Aretha's were stronger; purer. 

Don't get me wrong. I love what technology can do--and that's a lot. Audacity can plug-in effects and make vocals sound so much better. But with an instrument like Aretha Franklin's voice, it is a moot point because the uniqueness and clarity stand on their own merit, as they did so many years ago, pre-advancements in audio technology. 

There are too many hit songs to list that were recorded by the charismatic Aretha, who won 26 Grammy Awards, 6 American Music Awards and was honored by former President Obama with a Kennedy Center Award--not bad for the daughter of a minister who got her start singing gospel as a little girl in at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan.

Some of my favorite Aretha Franklin songs include "Respect" (of course!), "Natural Woman" (which became a feminist anthem with its power), "Freeway of Love", "Who's Zooming Who", "Chain of Fools" (what can you say, THAT intro!), "I Say a Little Prayer" (I did a version of this at a college audition and was flattered when I noticed the director tapping his foot), and "Think"--the inventory is endless.

There will never be another Aretha Franklin. Through personal difficulties that included health problems, stage fright, troubled marriages, raising four sons from different fathers, living with racism, and being a black artist in a predominantly white-owned music world, particularly in the early days of her career, she always maintained a quiet dignity and strength--and highlighted the fact that music is color blind. I loved her spirit every time I saw her interviewed. 

In my head, Aretha will always be alive through her recordings. A biopic Genius: Aretha will be released this Saturday, March 21 on the National Geographic channel.

British actress Cynthia Erivo, 34, who has won Tony and Grammy Awards,  plays Aretha. The biopic will focus on Aretha's singing career, especially during the latter part of the '60s, and also shed light on some traumatic areas in her life. A look inside her recording sessions is also highlighted. This is a must-see for me. 

Another major tribute to Aretha, being released in theaters on August 31, is the film Respect starring Jennifer Hudson. The Queen of Soul transcends time and lives on.

Marion Charatan

Posted on March 15, 2021 12:16

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Source: Slate

Music livestreams, music movies, music TV shows. But is there still room for music criticism?

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