Photo Caption: Aretha Franklin sings “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee'” at the U.S. Capitol during the 56th presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009. | Photo Credit: Cecilio Ricardo, U.S. Air Force
By Morgan Chassidy Knotts, Contributing Writer
If you know music, you know Aretha. If you create music, you have been schooled in Aretha. She is an institution every musician must experience. Her voice is an instrument of Jazz. With the use of feeling and timing to deliver a message straight to our souls, it is nearly impossible to experience her melodic range without being moved. As an artist, she teaches me to pace myself, that singing is not a sprint, but a marathon.
The time she took to speak and sing so eloquently, disguised her quiet struggles. Her journey was private for the most part, which was Ms. Aretha’s style, a bit mysterious. As a teenage mother, civil rights activist, battered woman, divorcee, plus size woman of color, alcoholic, and the first woman in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, the Queen of soul was a living example of triumph and reigned supreme! She was the first Queen to use her lemons to make lemonade.
Many of Aretha’s songs gave us a peek into her private life. I truly believe she used song as an outlet to express what she was going through at the time. Singing seemed to be her form of therapy or even a good friend she could share her secrets with. Either way, we tuned in to get a glimpse of her legendary world, through song.
During the civil rights movement, she was a much needed role model. While James Brown sang, “I’m Black and I’m Proud”, Aretha sang about “Respect”. She was a needed figure of a natural black woman, embraced by all. She marched along side civil rights leaders during some of our nation’s most perilous times for African Americans. She continued to support our nation’s progress along side many politicians, in many arenas. She lead by example and was a consistent American Idol her entire career. She gave us hope.
Although Aretha was a very public figure in her music career, she worked tirelessly to maintain a personal level of privacy in her everyday life. We were only privileged to know what she allowed. She was very open about being exposed to celebrities at an early age, through her father’s church and the gospel industry. So there were a few personal nuggets Ms. Franklin left behind. According to accounts, Aretha was always sure to keep a tight lip to see what others knew of her first, then she would either correct them without giving any information or she may confirm, “Yes, that is correct”. She was a woman of complete discretion, keeping life private, refusing to be defined by circumstances. She was fully supported in her life and career by her father until his death. He managed her career early on, and gave Aretha the tools needed to be shrewd in business.
As Aretha began to manage her own career after her father’s passing, she would become known as a very intelligent business woman. Aretha began to see the success she desired and gained “Respect” from her peers. She blazed trails in a male-dominated industry becoming the first woman ever inducted into the Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame. She moved and spoke as a missionary under assignment. Some over the years have painted her as difficult to work with, but it is clear from the stories of others who really knew her, that she valued her gift. She took nothing less than what was needed, deserved, or was owed to her, leaving nothing on the table. She held herself, her gift, and her staff to the highest standards. Had Ms. Franklin been a man, these things wouldn’t even be worth the discussion, but as a woman in the same position she was given the title of “Diva”. This title was meant to be hurtful initially, but she changed that too. By embracing the title, she gave young women in music and business something powerful to aspire to.
Although she has departed from this physical world, she leaves behind a legacy of class and grace. To know that she will be missed, is truly an understatement of the void we have been left with. Heaven has acquired one of Earth’s natural resources, Ms. Aretha Franklin!
About the Author
Morgan Chassidy Knotts of Houston, TX grew up in the Acres Homes community enjoying all genres of music. Beginning during her early childhood until her adolescent years she performed in her church and school choirs. After spending time pursuing other collegiate and career options she was led back to her first loves, writing and music. Although it had been several years since she had really been disciplined with her craft, she never lost her love for writing or music. When she began to pursue writing for her music career again, the process was longer and proven to be much tougher than she remembered, but her love of music would not let opposition win.