Aretha Franklin is a national treasure. The ultimate singing diva should have a statue somewhere in downtown Detroit, as she’s one of the city’s greatest living legends. Franklin has long reigned as the Queen of Soul and though many young singers revere and respect her, none have come even close to replacing her. With classic recordings behind her like “Chain of Fools,” “Respect,” “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” and other classic soul hits, Franklin has no peer. And though she’s getting older, like we all are, the feisty Franklin takes no mess from anyone who tries to slight her or her legacy. Here’s why we love us some Aretha.
1. SHE KNOWS HOW TO MAKE AN APPEARANCE
Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration was a history making moment in itself. Of course, when Franklin was charged with singing “My Country Tis of Thee” to the nation and the world, everyone expected a magical moment. But what the world didn’t expect was how Franklin’s hat would become as much a part of the day as the pomp and circumstance. The now-famous grey felt cloche with a rhinestone-studded bow became its own news item and turned its Seoul-born designer Luke Song, into a worldwide sensation. The hat now resides in the Smithsonian, but will head out on tour this year as part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit. Franklin may not consider this a diva moment, but only a true diva could stir a global response with not just her music, but her choice of headgear. Watch the performance here:
2. SHE KNOWS HOW TO OWN A MOMENT
In 1998, famed opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti was taken ill right before the Grammys where he was scheduled to sing “NessumDorma,” a classic opera recording. Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich remembered the Aretha Franklin had sung the song two nights before at pre-Grammy event and he asked her to step in for the ailing Pavarotti. She did, with no rehearsal, leading to one of the most famous on-the-fly Grammy performances in the show’s history. Watch the performance here:
3. SHE KNOWS HOW SHE SEES HERSELF
There may be folks who snickered when Aretha Franklin said she wanted Halle Berry to play her in her biopic. After all, the two women don’t seem to have that much in common physically and Berry can’t sing. But if they did snicker, they did so privately, since Franklin is well-known for her intolerance of disrespect. But here’s the thing – if you feel like Halle Berry is your choice, then why not? Jamie Foxx don’t look a daggone thing like Ray Charles and he won an Oscar for playing him. A gracious Berry said she didn’t think she had the singing chops to pull it off. We don’t know who else Franklin has in mind, but it’s her life, so let her choose who she wants.
4. SHE KNOWS HOW TO PROTECT HER LEGACY
Beyonce found out the hard way what happens when you don’t give the Queen her royal props. When B performed the Grammys in 2005, she referred to Tina Turner as one of music’s “queens.” Well, homage must be paid to royalty and Franklin bristled at the title “Queen” being applied to Turner. She issued a statement to Grammy organizers saying “I am not sure of whose toes I may have stepped on or whose ego I may have bruised between the Grammy writers and Beyonce. However, I dismissed it as a cheap shot for controversy.” The moral of this story – there is only one Queen of Soul and if you don’t know, you better ask somebody.
5. SHE KNOWS HER MUSIC IS TIMELESS
Who can blame Franklin for protecting her legacy? It’s the same thing people get mad at Prince for, when he has his lawyers chasing fans who bootleg his music or post his videos without authorization. Music is something to be shared for sure, but artists like Franklin, Prince, Stevie Wonder and others are understandably protective of their legacy and livelihood. When you’ve made classics that have been part of the collective consciousness for decades, you deserve a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T, don’t you think?