In 1986, I might have been the only high school freshman on my bus listening to Sam Cooke and The Supremes and SUPER obscure Ike & Tina Turner music. Sidenote: it was my parents that turned me on to Ike & Tina. And my Dad handed me my first Supremes collection . . . the bluest blue cover with three records and collectible portraits of each of the ladies.). Thank you, guys! Hopefully, I wasn't the only one listening to Aretha. She showed up on my radar with a new, contemporary song "Freeway of Love", which was part of a resurgence of her radio-play career. It didn't take long for me to make the connection, "ooohhh, she's the Respect lady". And that was it, I went in head first in to the deep, deep archives . . . starting with the "30 Greatest Hits" album. That was all I needed for a good long time. Baby, I Love You. I Never Loved a Man. I Say a Little Prayer. I loved it all. I was certainly into her new, current, pop album. But, the "old stuff" was IT.
It wasn't until my adult years that I realized that she wasn't just a singer that made me feel things. And I felt a lot of things (chief among these was that I didn't care what was popular then, "THIS is GOOOOOOLDEN"). But I realized that she wasn't just a singer, she was a figure . . . a notable figure . . . an important figure. She was a part of some of the most important events of the civil rights movement. She was paying underpaid musicians their worth when no one else was. She created music that no one knew we needed until she gave it to us. She was respected across the globe more than I could have ever imagined. That's when I realized that one of my favorite singers was one of the greatest performers in history. One of the coolest, most elegant, most talented, most badass women that we'll ever know. I never took her for granted after that.
She’s gone today, but she's not . . . really.