Today would have been Aretha Franklin’s 80th birthday. She was born in a magical year for pop stars — Paul McCartney and Carole King are also turning 80. She was also born on what would be a special day– March 25th– Elton John shares the birthday although he’s a bit younger.
Aretha was and is the standard for the Best Voice, the greatest not just Black female singer but the best singer. Her voice came from her soul and resonates even today. Listen to her records on the radio, which are played constantly, and you hear the love, the pain, the heart, the history.
Different songs float up and you hear them in new ways. “Since You Been Gone,” “Seesaw,” Aretha’s tellings of “Let it Be” and “Eleanor Rigby” — these are not happenstances. She and Jerry Wexler or Tom Dowd or Arif Mardin planned them to the nth degree. And then with the structure in place, Aretha’s magic rises up and spins whatever the concept was into gold.
I ate with her, gossiped with her, waited patiently while she paid the band (three hours sometimes), I went shopping with her, and laughed with her even when the end was very near. Like all her friends, I miss her every day. Knowing how ill she was, Aretha celebrated every birthday of her last decade in style. So raise a glass to her today, she was one of a kind and will always be missed and remembered with great love.