Aretha Franklin: A colossus, a woman, a lady, a light and a soul
Just occasionally, Humankind produces a beacon of light shining on each and every one without exception in the four corners of the globe, shining forever...
The details of Aretha Franklin's life are well known to all and there is little I can add that readers cannot glean from Wikipedia or the multiple articles which have appeared written by persons far more qualified than myself to opine on Aretha Franklin. However it was the outpouring of emotions on the passing of Aretha Franklin aged just seventy-six, yesterday, that made me feel the very significance of this woman, this lady, this soul and the need to share her message with others.
It has been said that Aretha Franklin gave a voice to soul, or that she gave a soul to her voice. Perhaps we could go further and say that she is and shall continue to be the voice of soul, the queen of ad-lib and a colossus of spontaneity, her voice carried the emotions of millions, past and present, and transported them to Paradise, her heart beat the rhythm of African Americans and deified the spirit of people of African origin around the globe.
More than a role model, who took full advantage of her talent and the openings that show business gave her, she overcame personal tragedy (her mother passed on before Aretha was ten and she took care of her father for five years after he was shot in 1979) and remained at the top of her career along seven decades, between her first album Songs of Faith in 1956 to the last, A Brand New Me (2017).
A pianist as well as a singer, it was not only her tremendous voice, but the soul which her voice carried, as well as her singular and unique sense of rhythm, tone and ad-lib, but principally her Soul, which make Aretha Franklin the voice of the history of the Negro population, carrying their torment and witnessing their journey from the forests of Africa, snatched from their families and loved ones, sold to European slave traders, transported in the most horrific conditions to the New World by Spaniards and Portuguese and British and French and Dutch then forced to work often in totally unacceptable environments, being bullied, insulted, beaten, raped, unable to fight back, denied the right to read, denied basic human rights for generations. In the USA, in Brazil, in Cuba, in Venezuela, right across the American Continent and also in Europe.
But it is not indignation and revenge, the thirst for blood, for settling scores, that we find in Aretha Franklin's music and voice; we find, from the titles of her R and B single hits, Love, Respect and a Bridge over Troubled Water.
Perhaps these simple expressions summarize what and who Aretha Franklin was, is and always will be. Her message is not one of fighting, it is one of Love; her life as a woman who lived her life as a woman and stood up for women, with the dignity of a lady evokes nothing but Respect and her continued dedication to her work and her tremendous success not over a fleeting six months but over sixty years built an eternal Bridge among communities, enobling black culture and creating a flag carrier of excellence for people of all races and colors and creeds to flock together, reveling in her excellence as an example for all.
Rather than mourning the passing of Aretha Franklin, let us all celebrate her tremendous life, a Colossus in the annals of human culture, etched indelibly into the history of Humankind and let us remember her drive, her determination, her talent...and her soul, let us Respect!
Photo: By Ryan Arrowsmith - https://www.flickr.com/photos/ryanarrowsmith/470200423/, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2155762
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights. He is Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru.