Linda Solomon has been a journalist and photographer in Detroit her whole life. She knows all about celebrities. Her sister our pal Jill Rappaport, of “Today” show and pet advocacy fame. The girls grew up in Detroit with all the great Motown and soul stars including Aretha Franklin, who became a family friend. Many years ago, Jill even hosted a party for Aretha at her magical “log cabin” in the Hamptons, where Sam Moore’s band played and I got to dance with the Queen of Soul.
Now Linda has published a book of her photographs of Aretha over the years. Jill gave her the title, “The Queen Next Door” because even though she royalty, Aretha loved to go out in her hometown and do ordinary things. She loved to shop and dine out and hit the local casino. Even though she had periods of living in New York and Los Angeles, she always came home to Detroit.
Linda has really captured the real Aretha in gorgeous photos taken during her Clive Davis Renaissance period, the 80s. Aretha was not heavy then. She was trim and enjoying her second swipe to success and fame. She practically glows while her hits like “Freeway of Love” and “Jump to It” introduced her to a new generation of fans.
Solomon’s book is an important chronicle of Aretha’s life. She got Aretha’s niece, Sabrina, to write a few words, and 90 year old Burt Bacharach– who wrote “I Say A Little Prayer” with Hal David– to add a foreword. (For the record, both Aretha’s version and Dionne Warwick’s are equal classics that show how different vocalists will interpret a great song.) Bacharach sums it up: “She was just amazing.”
Many of the photos are Aretha with family, with boyfriend and really best friend Willie Wilkerson and lots of celebrities in there including Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards, and Whoopi Goldberg. But the best pictures are of Aretha when she’s unaware, relaxed, contemplative, or just enjoying herself. The woman with this extraordinary voice was also quite brilliant, introspective, and philosophical. But she was also a lot of fun, and Solomon has really captured that.
“Aretha was private,” Linda says in her introduction. “I respected this and she trusted me.” Beautiful work!