Hearing the news earlier this week of Aretha Franklin’s retirement from singing certainly brought back a flood of impressions and feelings over the years of just what an astonishing and national treasure Aretha Franklin is.
And I don’t say that as any sort of hyperbole, it is a flat-out fact; Aretha Franklin has been the undisputed Queen of Soul for over 50 years now. I would be hard-pressed to find another singer with the range and effortless emotion she has. And she is in rarified company – I think of her and I think of Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, Etta James, Nina Simone, Fontella Bass and the list goes on; women who have made indelible contributions to music and have taken songs and made them their own.
This concert, via the Swedish Network Sveriges Radio, is from the first show of her 1968 European tour, on May 2nd. The sound is a little creaky in spots, but the energy and passion more than make up for any technical shortcomings the broadcast may have.
This is exactly how I first remember hearing her, and how I was mesmerized by the sheer effortless range of her voice – somebody said it was five octaves – all I know is that it went from standing-still to soaring and it struck me in a way I will never forget. You don’t lose sight of those pivotal moments – when you see or hear something that adds a whole new meaning to your life’s experience. The thing was; Aretha Franklin didn’t even have to try and she captivated everybody she came in contact with, just by the sheer beauty of her voice – how it enveloped you; not just stood in front of you, but consumed you and took you to a whole new place. You really had to be there.
But if you weren’t – and maybe you came to the artistry of Aretha Franklin later on in her career – this concert will be a reminder of what made everybody stop what they were doing and listen – and be touched by what an amazing and powerful thing the human voice is capable of being.