| September 2, 2018
I wonder if anybody didn’t like Aretha Franklin? If anybody doesn’t immediately hear a song when they hear her name? If anybody doesn’t associate that song with a time and place? I guess there are…but they’d be missing out on a lot. Their loss.
Years ago the Muse and I went to an Aretha concert – a mini-concert being filmed for an upcoming TV special. She’d been away for a while, and she was coming back…again…but it always seemed different when she staged a comeback, because her music was always playing somewhere, so it was like she never went away. Not really. It’s just that whenever she came back, you had no idea what she’d look like – how big, how small, how blonde, how fashioned-up.
On this night, the lights went down. A spotlight hit the curtains on the stage as back-up singers started to sing. The curtains parted and revealed Aretha’s back-up for the night – Smokey Robinson, Rod Stewart and Elton John……because, why wouldn’t it be? Pause……Take it all in……seriously.
And it was clear that they were back-up. Not the main event. Not by a long shot. The lights went dark, then came back on and…there she was! It was a big year. It was a tall hair year. And there were lots and lots of white feathers – on her and flying through the air every time she moved. She wasn’t just a New Year’s float come to life, she was the whole Rose Bowl Parade!
And her face had an expression that basically said,”What did you expect?”
Then she opened her mouth and out came wonder. Out came magic. Out came Respect, which was automatically returned by the audience in abundance.
She was one of those people, to me, who never looked young, never looked old, always was just Aretha. Her voice and her ability to command a stage were ageless. Remember that Kennedy Center Honors performance for Carol King in 2015? She walked out on stage in a floor length fur, carrying a handbag. She looked like she wandered in from outside and had a few minutes to kill while waiting for her limo and, oh look, there’s a piano, I think I’ll just sit down, put my handbag by my side and rip into Natural Woman…as if it was the most “natural” thing in the world. And it was remarkably effortless and totally commanded the room…and then she dropped her fur to the floor, and she owned that room.
And she was 73. Can I get an amen?
Now, three years later, she has moved on to a bigger venue, one befitting her out-sized talent, and she did wardrobe changes en route. Of course she did. Red, blue, rose gold and gold. With 5” Louboutins. Because that’s what a Queen does.100 Pink Cadillacs and four wardrobe changes. That’s called making an exit.
Farewell. And thank you.
I’m a big woman. I need big hair.
– Aretha Franklin
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