Music sees the most iconic of its artistes being the ones oozing with such infectious charisma that made only their presence in the vicinity more than enough to have a moving effect on all the people there – a room, a neighbourhood, a sold-out concert. And that presence did not need to be physical, the sound of their voice or even a photo hanging on a wall or sitting on a table could do the trick, too.
When such artistes then get in inspired form consistently year after year, always delivering note upon note and word after word to give a chilling performance that would leave an irreplaceable impression on those who witness it each time, the reverence for these calibre of artistes reaches a realm billions can only dream about.
You could call such artistes the one percent of music legends, a very exclusive collective of people who embody the definition of music. It was in such a group Aretha Franklin belonged to and her passing earlier on Thursday of advanced pancreatic cancer would be felt deeply by the world for decades to come.
Aretha had a voice no one could ignore. When she sang notes to a range beyond the capability of your favourite singer’s legends, your soul felt it and consequently made your body stand to your feet without prompt like all the hair on your body already have so you could applause her performance and be grateful to have witnessed a moment so epic.
Aged 76, the Queen of Soul as Aretha was known, battled for life after being diagnosed with cancer in 2010, leading to the cancellation of concert dates that year and in 2013 before and after she had what she described then as a miraculous surgery succumbing eventually to advanced pancreatic cancer this morning (August 16) in Detroit.
Long before her demise, Aretha Franklin had blessed the world with her powerful vocals right from when she started singing in church at the age of 12 to when her first album Songs of Faith was issued when she was 14 years old, and all through the decades and accolades which came along the way.
She went on to win 18 Grammy awards, one being a Legend award in 1991 and another being a Lifetime Achievement award in 1994, with her first Grammy coming for her version of Otis Redding’s Respect which spurned the famous ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T” spelling.
Lady Soul as she was also known from her 1968 album of that title received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1979, became the first woman to be inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and went on to be inducted to the UK Music Hall of Fame and GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and 2012 respectively.
She performed at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s burial, brought tears to Barack Obama’s eyes while performing at his inaugural ceremony in 2009, and performed to international acclaim the opera aria, Nessun Dorma, at the 1998 Grammy Awards ceremony in place of Luciano Pavarotti. Franklin also famously received a mid-performance standing ovation in December 2015 while performing (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman at the Kenedy Centre Honors in the section dedicated to honoree, Carole King, who co-wrote the song.
Her last public performance was back in 2017 in Philadelphia while her most recent performance of any nature was in November 2017 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York. Now on, it would be the angels sitting back to allow Aretha Franklin return to her gospel roots and render hymns at ranges only she could muster.