Swapna Narayanan & Samarth Narayanan
Earlier this month, the world lost two poetic souls.
One, an ex-prime minister, a statesman, very well known for his poetic intellect, and another, a musician par excellence, the Queen of Soul – Aretha Franklin.
A leading musical and cultural icon of the century, Aretha was an all-heart singer, song writer, musician who ruled the world across six decades. She began her musical journey as a teenage gospel singer, her father was a religious preacher and her mother was an accomplished vocalist and played the piano. With her roots in gospel music, she moved on to more secular music and eventually found home as a voice for civil and women’s rights of America.
A strong and passionate musician, she soon became the voice of the society and stood by revolutionaries like Martin Luther King, Angela Davis etc. in their quest for political equality. Singing in many milestone occasions of USA, whether it was Martin Luther King’s funeral in 1968 or Barack Obama’s swearing in ceremony in 2009, Aretha brought to fore, with her powerful and divine voice, the soul of her country.
Hailed as the voice across generations, Aretha was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, and the second woman to join the UK Music Hall of Fame, and was bestowed The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. A recipient of eighteen Grammy awards, including a Grammy Legend award and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, she even has an asteroid named after her.
A blessed life!
But not without trials.
A tumultuous childhood, yet a determined woman, she did not allow her circumstances to pull her down. On the contrary, she only transformed her pain into meaningful purpose with her distinct voice.
In her own words:
Hear me now and understand
He’s gonna find me some peace of mind
And if that peace of mind won’t stay
I’m going to find myself a better way
And if that better way ain’t so
I’ll ride with the tide and go with the flow
They called her the queen of soul for a reason.
Her voice, exploding through the molecules in the air, could stimulate a weary mind. It always opened a door, not by knocking on it, but by knocking it down. Her voice broke open a dark mind and filled that space with light, and would then waltz in deeper than ever and eventually enter the heart and expand into the spirit of the listener.
Her music was warm, sultry, happy and inspirational that always spoke about empowering women. Her songs like Think, Do Right Woman, Do Right Man, Respect etc. egged men and women to strive for their rightful place in nature.
This voice, with a soul, has spoken into history and has become a beacon of light constantly reminding us that ‘…somewhere over the rainbow, there’s a blue sky. And the dream you dare to dream, really do come true…’
While she probably now sings with along with The Supreme Lord , let us listen to some of her well known renditions and dare to dream on:
- Precious Lord (a favourite of Martin Luther King that she sang at his funeral, 1968) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FdFrtNacgU
- (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (sung at Kennedy Center, 2015 where Barack Obama remarked, ‘…American history wells up when Aretha sings…’) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diwF1-xJwZM
- Respect (where she commanded and not demanded respect from the men) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FOUqQt3Kg0