Friday, July 19, 2024

Remembering Aretha Franklin on What Would Have Been Her 79th Birthday: She Survived Her Mini-Series


Pretty much the only thing the producers of “Genius Aretha” got right last night was the Queen of Soul’s relationship with Clive Davis. It was the first time in 8 hours of mishegos that I felt someone had an idea of how Aretha interacted with people she knew and loved.

Otherwise, Episode 8 was a mess like the rest of “Genius.” Absent from Aretha’s story into the 80s were people like Luther Vandross, a great friend and her producer; and her boyfriend Willie Wilkerson. Most of “Genius” was just a cherry pick of facts without any context. Aretha’s family is furious, and her friends know better. This was not Aretha’s story.

Today my friend would have turned 79. She is sorely missed by everyone, not just fans and her devoted relatives, but all of her friends who loved her. I don’t know who of the people I know put themselves through “Genius.” I know a lot of them skipped it. It was so much easier than torture.

Aretha had a lot of joy in her life. She loved to celebrate her birthday. Every year there was a big party. Lots of celebrities, musicians, laughter, cake– lots of cake!– friends, toasts. One of her favorite spots was the Ritz Carlton on Central Park South, formerly the St. Moritz. She loved turning the lobby tea room into her private party spot. Plenty of people flew in from Detroit. There was a lot of happiness.

Happy, happy birthday, Aretha. You survived the mini series. Your legacy continues.


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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