Remembering Aretha Franklin’s ‘Amazing Grace’

Aretha Franklin prepares to perform during "The Gospel Tradition: In Performance at the White House" in the East Room of the White House, April 14, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Hollywood, CA-What now, America? It’s hard to imagine a world without Aretha Franklin. A genre has departed from us, one which will never be replaced or perhaps seen again. Franklin kept us lifted and encouraged with her “Amazing Grace,” a song that makes you undoubtedly reflect on getting yourself right with God. She reminded us to be woke with the conscious-blaring “Think” and told us to groove in “Rock Steady.”

“Aretha Franklin was an incomparable artist who came to be recognized as one of the most profound voices in music,” said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow through a released statement.

Long before the #MeToo movement became a popular hashtag on social media, Franklin told us that women should be better appreciated from men through a couple of her hit songs in “Respect” and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” A Do Right Man?

A line from Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” underscores this anthem that Franklin preached on through her musical talents. “They say that it’s a man’s world, but you can’t prove that by me. And as long as we’re together, baby, show some respect for me.”

That’s some powerful stuff. Franklin hit the nail on the head with that one-liner. Franklin’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” was released in 1967. But it is her remake of Otis Redding’s “Respect” that really makes you feel her soul cry out in demand when she sings “I’m about to give you all of my money, and all I’m askin’ in return, honey, is to give me my propers when you get home.”

Aretha Franklin performs during “The Gospel Tradition: In Performance at the White House” in the East Room of the White House, April 14, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“Respect” was also released in 1967, which highlights that the push for equality didn’t just start yesterday with a couple of poster signs and a bullhorn. Franklin was more than an out-of-the-world singer. She was the voice of our consciousness. Along the way to her storied success as the greatest singer of all-time, according to Rolling Stones magazine, Franklin picked up a rose in “Spanish Harlem” and gave hope of inspiration for millions of women across the globe to feel like “A Natural Woman.”

There is only one Aretha Franklin. Fans all over the world understand this emphatic proclamation, which explains why so many flocked to Franklin’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star the announced day of her transition to show their respect to the “Queen of Soul.”

As curious tourists and your normal Hollywood and celebrity seekers tried to pass by the star for the “Freeway of Love,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” and “Mary, Don’t You Weep” singer, they were greeted with a crush of onlookers and a heavy media ensemble that made it nearly impossible to walk on the sidewalk on Hollywood Blvd.

The large contingent of people lingered throughout the day, from early morning, when news of Franklin’s passing broke, to later into the evening. A throng of flowers, cards, photos, and mementos laid at the foot of Franklin’s star as fans took cell phone photos, touched her star and offered their memories of the 18-time Grammy winner.
The first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, Franklin claimed her last Grammy in 2008 for her duet with Mary J. Blige (Never Gonna Break My Faith).

“When I first heard about heard passing I was actually at work,” said engineer/rapper Slimm Goodie. “At first it didn’t dawn on me at first, but then I thought about my grandmother and my mom, the people, the people grew up listening to…that’s how I know about Aretha Franklin. She was in my household. It’s actually devastating. I’m really hurt.”

English: Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin heads to a reception at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner at the Washington Hilton in Washington, April 30, 2016. Photo courtesy of Voice of America

Unlike a lot of people who cite the Grammy-winning single “Respect” as the song that has been ingrained into their memory as the first time they heard Franklin, Slimm Goodie labels “Do Right Woman-Do Right Man” as the song that turned her into a fan of the soul singer when she was a teenager.

“That was the first song I heard from Aretha Franklin,” Slimm Goodie said. Slimm Goodie, a Los Angeles resident, added that Franklin was more than just an inspiration to her and a whole lot of other folks.

“The things that she’s done for us as a whole, as a community, the things she stood for as a culture, and not just her music, but for the people in the community.”

Cal State Fullerton basketball star Kyle Allman Jr. just happened to be in Hollywood showing his younger brother around town when he made an impromptu visit to Franklin’s star. Though he’s not all the way up to speed on all of Franklin’s music, Allman does know that the world lost a music icon.

“I know she’s a legend. It’s kind of sad,” Allman said. “My mom is sad. My mom was a fan.”

When she approached Franklin’s star, Lanell Starr just stared for a few minutes before pulling herself from the site where people had gathered to pay homage to the legend.

“She was an icon, that’s for sure,” said Lanell Starr. “Because she sang in the church and because I sing in the church…she was just real.”

As far as her favorite Franklin song? That would be none other than the symbolic “Respect.”

“It’s got to be ‘Respect.’ We all need respect,” Starr said.

Franklin certainly has that respect from the Recording Academy in which she earned 44 Grammy nominations.

“We were privileged to honor her with the Recording Academy’s GRAMMY Legend Award in 1991, the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994, and as the 2008 MusiCares® Person of the Year for her extraordinary artistic achievements and charitable efforts,” Portnow said of Franklin. “Her distinctive sound, unforgettable recordings, and giving spirit will continue to be celebrated worldwide. Aretha will be dearly missed, and our thoughts go out to her loved ones during this difficult time.”

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1373 Articles
Dennis is a news and sports photojournalist. Dennis has covered and written on issues such as civil rights, education, politics, and social justice. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Daily Breeze, Daily Press, Los Angeles Wave, Los Angeles Sentinel, and other media outlets. Dennis is currently the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and NCAA. Dennis is an alum and graduate of Howard University.