Since the last two weeks I have highlighted influential Black artists that are no longer with us, you know I had to close out Black History Month with a bigtime legend. I spent a lot of time highlighting Black men this month but Black women have had a major influence on present-day music. When it comes to women that have changed the game, one of the first names that come to mind is Mrs. Aretha Franklin. Although she’s the woman referred to as the “Queen of Soul”, I feel her tremendous impact on music that I often gets overlooked. I am by no means an Aretha Franklin historian and I wouldn’t even say I’m her biggest fan, but believe that I’m here to celebrate what she brought to the game.
My first introduction to Aretha was actually in my home as a kid. My parents predominantly played gospel artists but whenever my mom varied away from that, Aretha was always in the mix. Sometimes I think my mom used to play “Respect” just so everyone in the house knew how to move around her. Looking back at those times now that I’m older, I now realize the reach and impact of Mrs. Franklin’s music. “Respect” became a bigger statement than the music itself as it influenced both those that marched for Women’s Rights and for Civil Rights during that era. If I’m being real, the wildest part about this song is that the lyrics still hold true today and both Black people and women, still aren’t really shown no damn respect (but that’s another topic).
Mrs. Franklin was ahead of her time and found a way to mix gospel with jazz, blues and R&B music. She was a master at blending genres together. She influenced some yours and your parents favourite artists such as Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson and Luther Vandross. Once you finish processing that, you have to take in her voice! You didn’t think I wasn’t going to talk about that now did you? I’d argue her voice is so distinct and soulful that when you close your eyes and listen to the music, there can be no mistaking who’s singing. It demands your attention and really fills any room each and every single time.
Mrs. Franklin is one of the most influential artists in the history of music. You might not be able to notice it as much in 2022 but when you trace back the roots to some of your favourite music, a lot of it leads back to her. Don’t be afraid to go down the rabbit hole and try to understand why the legends are legends. May we continue to celebrate her work now and for years to come.
Here are a few of my favourite Aretha Franklin Songs for you to enjoy this week:
Take Me with You
Young, Gifted and Black
Drown in My Own Tears
Chain of Fools