Respect!: The Legacy of Aretha Franklin

By @SpeedontheBeat

Let me preface this piece by saying I'm incredibly biased when it comes to saying Aretha Franklin is one of the, if not the, greatest female artist ever to come across my ears. The reasoning behind that is simple: Aretha Franklin was one of my mother's favorite artists and, in turn, became one of my own favorites.

Yes, Mama Young would dance whenever "Respect" came on, regardless the setting. She could be in the middle of the street. Let her hear "WHAT YOU WANT?! BABY I GOT IT!," and she'd be off doing some sort of old-school dance to it, directing traffic around her makeshift Soul Train line. When it came to, for instance, "Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)," she'd sing every line in her best Aretha impersonation. It hit her in that special spot in her mind, since she used to sing it especially before she and my stepfather reconciled and reunited back in the late '90s.

She and my aunt had a collection of Aretha songs, which served as my introduction to the legendary artist. At the family cookouts, while my aunt and uncles were sipping on their E&J and ice, Aretha's smoky vocals blared from the nearest speaker, creating that sort of lounge-meets-speakeasy feel that I grew up with and loved so much. That smoothness influenced my own art, down to the sample choices I've made and my sometime-y singing.

So, aside from giving me "the feels" whenever I hear her music, since it makes me think of my family and all, what makes Aretha legendary? It's easy. Her voice, a mixture of straight-up gospel and down south soul, allows her to deliver a song such as "Respect," then drop a song like "Day Dreaming." While both of those songs still feature Aretha belting out her essence into our ears, subtlety isn't exactly needed when you've got a voice like Ms. Franklin.

She was Adele for the 60's through, well, honestly today. I love Adele, but Aretha will always win out when it comes to powerful vocals. Hell, listen to Aretha's cover of "Rolling in the Deep." "Rolling" is a song that needs a boisterous voice. It needs an Amy Winehouse, an Adele, an Aretha Franklin--in other words, someone who'll damn near kill their vocal cords to bring the song home.

Aretha, in her 70s, straight-up killed "Rolling," in a good way. It's not exactly her best, I'll admit that, but Aretha at her worst still can come out on top against other artists' best.

The next biggie for legendary status is this: her music has elements that anyone, regardless of their situation, can relate to. She's got her spiritual moments, her loving moments, her "I need you, baby" moments, and so on. But, they never sound cliched; they always have an element of freshness to them even down to the more well-known tracks. Many artists haven't been able to master that, the ability to make legitimate classics. Ms. Franklin has and I applaud her for it.

So, if you're in the mood for some powerful vocals, relate-able lyrics, and a good time for all, check out Ms. Franklin's music and vibe with the legendary awesome which is her discography.


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