Friday, 31 August 2018

God bless Aretha Franklin

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All respect
As the world bids farewell to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, the tributes are many from far and wide for the sensational person, artist and figure she was.
Yet, for most that mourn and also celebrate her wonderful life, she will be remembered mostly in her many songs. What is so amazing is the number of songs that she covered that she brought a life and an interpretation to that went well beyond the original.
Respect was written and first recorded by Otis Redding, with the man, the husband, pleading for respect when he gets home, Aretha Franklin took it and sang it from the perspective from the woman, the wife and the rest is history. Two Grammy awards and the induction of her version into Grammy Hall of Fame.
The salvation of talent
There are many other songs that people have come out to sing in charted a literally 7-decade-long career.
A difficult childhood, she had, parents divorcing when she was 6, her mother died of a heart attack just before she was 10, having 2 children at the ages of 12 and 14 respectively, she was a preacher’s daughter, but it did not save her from a cruel world out there. Her talent did, and it did greatly.
However, the song that registers the most to me as delivered by Aretha Franklin was written by the Beatles, she again took it and rendered it in both a haunting and a somewhat uplift tempo, the words of the song, full of meaning that made you think. It isn’t Think. She wrote that with her then husband, Ted White.
Eleanor Rigby was written in 1966, first by Paul McCartney and completed by the Beatles, but credited to Paul McCartney and John Lennon.


Remembering the lonely
Between the version written by the Beatles and the version that Aretha Franklin performed, she basically took a fictional person with a life story of a nobody, about whom nobody cared except for what needed to be done in burying her after she died.
The Beatles – 1st verse.
Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice
In the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window
Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?
Aretha Franklin – 1st verse.
I'm Eleanor Rigby
I picked up the rice in the church where the weddings have been
Yeah I'm Eleanor Rigby
I'm keeping my face in a jar by the door
If you want to know what is it for, Well
The juxtapositioning of being unknown as a nobody and the reality of being a lonely person is a haunting and fearful thing to think about. Yet, there are many, unknown, unsung, unseen, unheard, untouched, unloved, and more that have a life and then a death that would speak like that of Eleanor Rigby.
When Eleanor Rigby died, she died in the church, Father McKenzie whose frugal life is noted in darning his socks, having written an eulogy, a tribute to Eleanor Rigby, to the hearing nobody to the fact that in the Beatles version, nobody was saved by what may have been a moving tribute, but who can tell?
Making a person real
Aretha Franklin takes the abstraction to the involved, creates a person and speaks in the voice of that person. This is deep empathy rather than plain sympathy.
This is where Aretha Franklin made Eleanor Rigby somebody, a person, a story that began in the first person and then it became a story told to many. Eleanor Rigby took a place in our minds, the minds of many of us seemingly lonely people in many ways social, emotional and much else, with the promise that we would be left unsung.
When I first heard Aretha Franklin’s version, I thought Eleanor Rigby was someone who lived at a certain time and after her death was recognised for something. I had not heard the Beatles version before that.
Eleanor Rigby is almost a premonition, a niggling anxiety, yet, whatever happens when one is dead is really for the living to take care of, and that is a hope of sorts.
Aretha Franklin herself is definitely no Eleanor Rigby, she did not have to pick up the rice where the weddings have been. She died surrounded by family and will be eulogised by the high and mighty, along with millions paying tribute. She, however, has given a voice and life to the lonely people and at the end, she said, ‘God bless, yeah gotta love some lonely people.’
God bless you, Aretha, you made more than a difference.


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