With one unmistakable name, a musical legend was born: Aretha. Born on March 25th, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, raised in Detroit, daughter of the famous gospel preacher Reverend Cecil L. Franklin, she was born to a world made and moved by music.
Her father taught her timing and phrasing, but the precocious Aretha learned young that her voice, with its incessant pure ascended tone, could topple walls and open hearts. It took her to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and at least five of her many top hits have since become classics: “Respect,” “I Never Loved the Man,” “Freeway of Love,” “Share Your Love With Me,” and “Something He Can Feel.”
In her matchless career, she had 20 number one hits from “Respect” and “I Never Loved a Man” in 1967 to “Freeway of Love” the summer of 1985. Her fans, though, loved her like family, and it didn’t really matter where she was on the charts. She sang with utter moving emphatic emotion and captured hearts near and far.
Her voice, her gift, rang like a bell in the night, but she didn’t only shine on stage. During a recent interview, she described herself as a domestic goddess, and what job is harder than raising black children in America? As a black mother, she was indeed a goddess raining over the rhythms of life and love at home in Detroit.
For a black woman to go from the Jim Crow south to become a queen of the kingdom of music and then a goddess at home is no small thing. She was, is, and she’ll ever be Aretha, who lightened and enriched the hearts of millions around the world. She returns to the celestial choir after 76 summers of earthly life.
From imprisoned nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.
These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.