This week I'm most indebted to Aretha Franklin who, through her death, reminded our nation of its enduring spirit. Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1942 to a Baptist minister and an accomplished piano player and vocalist, Aretha Franklin became a bestselling recording artist and the undisputed Queen of Soul. In 1987 she made history by becoming the first female performer inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Franklin's life was marked by struggle and pain. Her mother died of a heart attack when she was nine, she gave birth to her first child when she was only twelve years old, and she was a victim of domestic violence. But Franklin channeled her emotions through her music, which was healing for anyone who heard it. Her range was fierce. She breathed life into gospel, jazz, the blues, and opera. She treated us to a jaw-dropping performance in 1998 when she sang "Nessun Dorma" at the Grammys with mere minutes notice after opera star Luciano Pavoratti fell ill.
Aretha Franklin's career took off under the direction of producer Jerry Wexler. Their collaboration produced her first gold hit, "I Never Loved a Man The Way that I Loved You," along with "Chain of Fools," "Think," and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." When asked about his influence on Franklin's chart-topping success, Wexler said that the only thing he did was put Franklin back at the piano to play for herself. Franklin's voice was indeed matched by her skill at the piano, which she learned to play by ear as a child. Her indelible contribution to this world is evidence that when we control our own keys in life, anything is possible.
Thank you, Ms. Franklin, for ministering the world through your music, your style, your resiliency, and your truth. Much respect.