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Monday, September 3, 2018

Aretha Franklin, the feminist voice of soul

Por Rory

The soul queen, Aretha Franklin, died Thursday in Detroit at age 76. Daughter of a well-known reverend, she began to sing in the choir of her father's church and shook the musical scene of the 60s by introducing gospel resources into secular music, with today legendary hits like Respect or (You make me feel) A natural woman. She had a precocious and turbulent life, with her first motherhood when she was just a girl, a violent marriage and a considerable history of disagreements and misfortunes. In 2010 she suffered from pancreatic cancer and her health had worsened a few months ago. The representative of the artist confirmed the death, according to the AP agency, because of pancreatic cancer. With her disappears the last great survivor of the golden age of American black music.

The world of music soon showed its admiration for the legacy left by the artist. Sir Paul McCartney was one of the first to share his gratitude to the singer through Twitter: Let's take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our Souls, who inspired us to all for many many years. She will be missed, but the memory of her greatness as a musician and a good human being will live with us forever. With love, Paul." Another Englishman, Liam Gallagher, one of the world's pop stars, exclaimed in the social network: "What a life. What a legacy! A lot of love, respect and gratitude." In the political arena she also inspired farewell words. US President Donald Trump tweeted: The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is dead. She was a great woman, with a wonderful gift from God, her voice. Will be missed! ". The former president Bill Clinton and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton issued a joint statement in which they argued that the celebrity "will always be the Queen of Soul and much more for all those who knew her personally and through her music. Our hearts are with her family and her innumerable admirers."

She was born in 1942 in Memphis (Tennessee), but grew up in the same place she has said goodbye to, Detroit (Michigan), the once thriving capital of music and the automobile. Hers was one of the many African-American families that in the 40 migrated from the south to the north in the heat of the industrial boom. The splendor of jazz and other rhythms in cities such as Chicago or the aforementioned Detroit are understood from this economic and demographic phenomenon; the decline of it, too. An incipient African-American middle class that had formed in the industrial belt went into a spin. But when the engine gripped, Aretha had already become a recognized artist. Her father, in addition, was Clarence LeVaughn Franklin, a well-known and influential pastor, friend of Martin Luther King, whose voice was so musical that his sermons ended up being released on records. It was in the choir of her father's church that the artist began to sing, like her sisters, and was in her own home when she came into contact with the civil rights movement. But the privilege of her home - within the African-American community - did not free her from a hard childhood and, above all, very brief.

The Rev. C. L. Franklin, a drinker and accused of abuse in her biography, had had other children out of wedlock and his wife Barbara, Aretha's mother, abandoned them. At age 12, she became pregnant with a boy from a school and at 15 she had already had her second child with another man. Both carry the surname Franklin. She married at 19 with Ted White, who was violent with her and divorced eight years later. They had a boy. Years later she would marry (and divorce) again and have a fourth child. Reverend Franklin died in 1984 after spending five years in a coma as a result of a gunfight when he confronted robbers. Many of the murky episodes of her life were collected - to her chagrin - in a 2014 biography (RESPECT: The life of Aretha Franklin) published by David Ritz, who years before had worked for her as a ghostwriter of an autobiography that the artist was in charge of sweetening. Like her music, Aretha was quarrelsome and tried to corner the hardest part of her story. Her Atlantic producer, Jerry Wexler, said that her luminous eyes covered the anguish and that her depressions could be "as deep as the dark sea."

Although she had started recording at Columbia Records, the big hits came in Atlantic, with Wexler. As famous titles as Respect or Natural woman were quickly added other indelible, as Think or Say a Little prayer. At the end of the 60s, she had already become one of the icons of the African-American community, with songs that transpired feminine and racial vindication. She sang at the funeral of Martin Luther King, whom she had known as a child in her home, in 68, and she did so in January 2009 when Barack Obama took office and became the first black president in American history. A few years ago, at a public event, the soul queen said that this was the most exciting moment of her career. Winner of 18 Grammy awards and with 10 million albums sold, she had been traveling since the 1980s without traveling outside the United States due to her legendary flying phobia. This limitation, although it deprived her of evenings of glory live, did not limit the international reach of her career nor her consecration as queen of soul. Diva jealousy is attributed to other artists who at some point surpassed her in sales -such as Barbra Streisand or Whitney Houston- and, in fact, it was public her anger when at the 2008 Grammy Awards, Beyoncé did not came up with something other than to present Tina Turner as "the Queen". Franklin took offense and considered it a low blow of the writers to generate controversy.

Franklin announced her retirement at the beginning of 2017 with the idea of ​​limiting her agenda to scarce and highly chosen performances, although many of these had to be canceled as a result of medical recommendations this year. Thus, she could not perform last March in Newark, as planned, or last April at the jazz festival in New Orleans. Her last performance took place last November, in New York, to mark the 25th anniversary of the foundation against AIDS by Elton John. Her musical influence, nevertheless, survives for the opinion of the experts in artists of later generations, like Mariah Carey or Beyoncé. Obama said in an article by David Remnick of 2016 in The New Yorker, that if he had to take a few albums to an island, his admired Aretha Franklin would be on that list. "Because she would remind me of my humanity. What is essential in all of us. And simply: it sounds bloody good."