As the funeral and final musical tributes to Aretha Franklin played out in Detroit just before Labor Day, I felt saddened, realizing how much I will miss our city’s reigning Queen of Soul.
Aretha was only 14 when her first album hit the airwaves – I grew up with her music and will miss looking forward to powerful new performances. It was fascinating to learn how her version of “Respect” transformed a song by Otis Redding into a powerful anthem for women
I also realized as I listened to the coverage that Aretha flourished in an environment that was similar to my late husband Tim Robinson’s upbringing. Aretha’s love of music was nourished at her father’s Baptist church in downtown Detroit – although the family had moved north from Tennessee when she was two years old. Tim’s father was a Baptist preacher in a small Alabama town and Tim grew up playing piano at the services from a young age.
What made Aretha so great? She was a perfectionist and tightly controlled her performances. But in the interviews it was emphasized again and again that she sang from her heart. She loved her audiences and also shared her father’s devotion to furthering civil rights. Although her marriages failed, she had four sons and fiercely protected her family’s privacy.
As tributes poured in following her death, recording artists from soul, gospel and rock and roll all over the world affirmed Aretha’s right to the title internationally of Queen of Soul.