Aretha's transition has sparked a calling deep down in me this morning. Upon waking, her music played from my speakers with a heavier cry than before. And now I sit here as my heart howls and urges my soul to convey the severity of her impact and influence on who I am as a woman and artist.
Take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm,
Through the night,
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord,
Lead me home."
Aretha began her vocal journey as a soloist in the church choir where she began traveling and singing gospel songs with her father who pursued Christian ministry as Reverend C. L. Franklin. She came from a family of music and graced the world with unmatched soul & power and gave us more to feel.
Her uninhibited expression reached out to me from an early age. My mother played her tunes around the house and in the car. I remember bonding with the women in my family as we would all commune in singing to whatever Aretha song played. I was immersed in her presence from the beginning. And her artistic guidance carried me throughout high school, college and into my professional career having several of her pieces ingrained in my repertoire.
Her transition to rhythm and blues and more popular music enhanced my understanding of soul music. Her effortless belt and extensive range was a teacher in several of my expressive effects.
The fullness and texture of her tone did not prohibit any of the sounds she produced vocally and gave more to the stories she told in her immersive melodies. She taught me how to embrace the unique texture and fullness of my voice and gave color to the canvas of artistic choices and expressive possibilities I could make.
Her songs induced women empowerment that I felt pulsating in the matter of my very bones. I had a new demand in my engagements that elevated my sense of self.
"What you want Baby, I got it What you need Do you know I got it All I'm askin' Is for a little respect when you get home (just a little bit) Hey baby (just a little bit) when you get home (Just a little bit) mister (just a little bit) I ain't gonna do you wrong while you're gone Ain't gonna do you wrong cause I don't wanna All I'm askin' Is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit) Baby (just a little bit) when you get home (just a little bit) Yeah (just a little bit)"
Chain of fools. This song that gave understanding to the ex's that attempted to make me feel invaluable, insignificant. It was an anthem that I sang with every chance that presented itself to me.
"For five long years I thought you were my man But I found out, I'm just a link in your chain Oh, you got me where you want me I ain't nothin' but your fool Ya treated me mean Oh you treated me cruel
Chain, chain, chain (Chain, chain, chain Chain of fools)"
It was as if Aretha Franklin knew exactly what I needed to hear and how I needed to feel when hearing it. And she found hearth and home in the triumph that came when I moved through trials. She was my big sister, my mother and mentor. She brought value to a large part of the soul that possesses me today.
And she lives...in me.
Aretha gave me space to appreciate who I was as a natural woman. She allowed me to see the beauty I possessed past the adornments and taught me that the love I have for those parts of myself should be acknowledged and appreciated by my counterpart. And showed me how I should feel beautiful in my effortless femininity.
"Looking out on the morning rain I used to feel so uninspired And when I knew I had to face another day Lord, it made me feel so tired Before the day I met you, life was so unkind But your the key to my peace of mind
'Cause you make me feel, You make me feel, You make me feel like A natural woman
When my soul was in the lost and found You came along to claim it I didn't know just what was wrong with me Till your kiss helped me name it Now I'm no longer doubtful, of what I'm living for And if I make you happy I don't need to do more
'Cause you make me feel, You make me feel, You make me feel like A natural woman"
I recall singing "Natural Woman" while living in Japan with a group of friends, and I vividly remember how this song made me feel. My blood was rushing with a new found absorption of what the song truly meant when I uttered and interpreted it for myself. The song projected itself like butter and with insurmountable grace as I was able to access parts of my inner workings that needed to be touched and held. It was healing.
"She was a healer to me and I leaned into her." - ÄR
Your transition has enhanced the purpose of my womanhood and given heights and depths to my music and I thank you.
You live. And I honor you.
You are a queen now and forever. Rest in paradise.
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