Inspirational Singers: Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul
Aretha Franklin, one of the most inspirational singers in the industry and the century. Unfortunately, this generation is unfamiliar with this amazing African-American artist. The woman behind the famous song, ‘I Say A Little Prayer’. I’m not so positive whether an image of her is still registers in your mind, right now. Perhaps, most of you are really young, after all. Reminiscing the past, I dare you sing the chorus below, you’ll instantly recognize her and the song.
(Forever) Forever, (And ever) yeah
(You’ll stay in my heart, and I will love you)
(Forever) Forever, (And ever) ever
(We never will part, oh, how I love you)
(Together) Together, (Together) together
(That’s how it must be to live without you)
(Would only mean heartbreak for me)
If you still can’t put a face on her name, I’m wondering how you ended up here, cheers! Anyway, I’m here to make you aware of these inspirational singers like Michael Jackson and the great African-American artists.. As the second singer/celebrity in this small series on my site, Aretha Franklin is an extraordinary woman, especially for the black community. She still appeared in concerts, sermons, and television shows until her death on August 16, 2018.
Currently, a biopic film for Aretha was already in the works, which was supposed to have an early screening on December 25, 2020. It’s going to be starred by Jennifer Hudson, who will play the role of Aretha. However, I’m not sure if the people behind it can still deliver on schedule because of the current pandemic.
Anyway, without further ado, let’s start taking a look at the Queen of Soul.
The Child Gospel Singer
On the outside, one could have thought that Aretha was going to have a perfect childhood. His parents have stable sources of income and have obtained respectable jobs. His father, Clarence, is a church minister and has gained a reputation as the man with the Million Dollar Voice.
Clarence makes thousands of dollars for every sermon he delivered in every church he visited in the country. He became renowned and received wide popularity in the celebrity world. He’s acquainted with the most popular and historically relevant black people in his time. Two of them are Clara Ward and Martin Luther King Jr.
Aretha’s mother, on the other hand, Barbara, was a high-praised gospel singer and pianist.
Continuous family problems plagued her childhood. At six, her parents separated because of Clarence. He performed never-ending acts of infidelities, which pushed Barbara to leave and take Aretha away from her father and her siblings.
A few weeks before her tenth birthday, Barbara died of a heart attack. To cope with the loss of her mother, Aretha focused on learning the piano, the musical instrument Barbara was most intimate with. She mastered it without formal training—only relying on her ear and dexterity. Unfortunately, she was unable to finish high school.
She quickly became recognized locally because of her frequent appearance as a solo singer in New Bethel. Two years after Barbara’s death, Clarence decided to become her manager and took her together with his tours as a gospel singer.
This event can be considered as a huge turning point for Aretha towards an initial life filled with vagueness and then nonstop successes in the end. She came with her continually traveling father. And when she was 12 years old, she immediately got engaged in a few taboo problems like getting pregnant at a young age and having slept with an older man. At 14, she became pregnant again.
At the age of 19, she wed her manager, who introduced her to alcohol and drugs. This marriage led to domestic abuse with his husband as the instigator. This got even worse that led to unhealthy stress eating habits.
While she narrowly escaped the grips of her husband, she had multiple relationships with people close to him. One was his road manager, which resulted in one of her sons being born.
Her career blossomed fast with little hitch until her forties. She launched multiple albums and solos under various record labels. Behind the scene, a lot of other companies wanted to sign her up. Still, most of them failed because Clarence only picked the ones already established in the industry.
Aretha has been heavily influenced by his father and Martin Luther King Jr. when it comes to political and social discourse regarding the African American community. When she reached her thirties, she became more outspoken about her beliefs and opinions. She primarily supported women, black Americans, and Native Americans.
The Triad of Despair
Her successes just kept coming. She’s one of few artists who weren’t surrounded by hundreds of scandals. Despite being a woman of color, she was rarely targeted by racism. Her experience was unlike the King of Pop’s. However, despite that, she chose to fight for the rights of her people, which I’ll talk about later.
Three of the most devastating events during her career are when:
- Her second marriage failed,
- Constant low self-esteem fueled with her bad eating habits,
- And the death of her father.
Clarence Franklin was a victim of a random robbery in his neighborhood. He was shot point-blank and was in a comatose state for five years before he died.
With all three of those, it became noticeable that her image suffered a lot. She sang drunk on stage that resulted in physical injuries. She forgot managing her responsibilities, like paying her bills on time or accomplishing her work commitments. At that point forward, she wasn’t able to take care of herself properly.
Despite All These
Interestingly, her career ended gracefully. She was still respected, and her fans never adored her. The problems she had, which may appear as the worst ones you could experience, were actually minor compared to problems other celebrities experience.
She continuously produced music the masses never fail to consume. Her work was recognized consistently by award-winning bodies, and she never loses a lot of gigs and opportunities to sing.
When All is Said and Done
Aretha Franklin died in 2018 after battling pancreatic cancer for six years. The world didn’t mourn for him like it did for Michael Jackson and Steve Jobs, but the United States, particularly men and women of color, didn’t fail to send her prayers before and after she struggled in her deathbed.
I’m not a part of the community, but I sincerely felt how the human race lost another gift from God. Aretha is one of the few artists who made people hear gospel music—a genre close to my heart. Unlike now, gospel songs could be listened to and heard anywhere in America, even in bars and pubs. Nowadays, this genre’s slowly decaying and vacuumed inside to where it originated: in the four walls of churches.
Going back to Aretha, we might have been unable to find or discover any technical skill we can use to help you with your singing and vocal development. However, we might have learned something else. Life or God often uses mysterious ways to balance things out in our lives.
You might be having troubles looking for a person to draw inspiration from. Or you might be looking for someone to admire or follow amidst the depressing situation we’re currently in (the pandemic). So I’m sure that you could use Aretha as that person. Regardless of struggles, she took them all one by one. This includes her long standing battle with body fat. In her last years, she was able to remove all of them.
Just a quick note: I’m looking for the things for you guys to help you grow as singers. Aretha’s talent might’ve been the sole reason for her success, but what I have here is just a snippet of her story. She did all these with hard work, good character, and refining her attributes.
Aretha was destined to become a celebrity. She poured her soul out to achieve everything she wanted in life including her success..
In turn, her life behind the stage can be seen as tragic. She received all the resources to fulfill most of the material needs of a human being. Still, she also lost many things that can help her enjoy life and love herself more.
You might have a different opinion of what I just said. If you have a different point of view of what we could have learned from the life of Aretha Franklin, don’t hesitate to comment below.