Aretha remembered

Oct 2018 Aretha remembered

By Jim Stewart

On August 16, we lost someone special: Aretha Franklin, has been like an ever-present friend of mine for the past 55 years. A true legend, the like of which we will never see again.

Music is only part of her legacy; she was also prominent in the Civil Rights struggle, continuing to work and challenge for equality throughout her life.

I first fell under her spell in 1964, hearing a single on pirate radio. I then purchased her latest CBS album ‘Running Out Of Fools’ upon release. It was almost a collection of covers of R&B’s biggest hits of the previous year, many of which ‘My Guy’, ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ and ‘Walk on By’, for example, already had the definitive versions made. But Aretha gave each song something that could not be ignored: to others she added a new dimension, but every recording had pure quality and class, rarely experienced.

I saw her debut London concert at Finsbury Park Astoria in the spring of 1968. She was simply electrifying, and when she sat at the piano for ‘Dr Feelgood’ and ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’, she really came alive, unlike any female performance I had seen before, she was in total control of the venue.

Her Atlantic albums received worldwide acclaim across every musical boundary. Gold discs and Grammy’s were showered on her, and she maintained that amazing standard until the mid-seventies, and the albums became a bit patchy – not because of her performances, but the suitability of some of the material. Maybe less frequent releases would have solved that problem.

Her label switch to Arista continued in the same vein: a mix of great songs, many becoming hits, but always a cut above anybody else. Her cameo in the ‘Blues Brothers’ brought her, and her Atlantic and Stax stable mates, to a whole new audience, with her MTV ‘Diva’s’ appearance.

Aretha is a true legend, the like of which we will never see again, and nothing sickens me more than hearing that a so-called ‘talent show judge’ hadtold a wannabe ‘you remind me of a young Aretha Franklin’ or ‘we are looking at the next Aretha Franklin’ when there can never be another Aretha.

A listen to any of her records will tell you that Stevie Wonder once said: “If Aretha takes one of your songs, you never get it back.” Completely true. Sam Cooke is hailed as ‘the man who invented soul’ many lay claim to the ‘king of soul’ title, but Aretha was, and always will be the undisputed The Queen Of Soul.

Aretha R.I.P.