Saturday, April 13, 2024

Celebrating the Life of the Great Aretha Franklin, Five Years After Her Death at Age 76


It’s hard to believe Aretha Franklin has been gone five years.

The legendary singer and performer, and philanthropist, was 76 when she passed away from a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2018. She’d been ill for close to 10 years and refused to discuss it. For most of the illness, Aretha kept to her touring schedule. She rarely missed a show and never complained. She was devoted to the music and to her audience.

Since Aretha died we’ve had the excellent movie, “Respect,” with Jennifer Hudson, and the “Genius” TV series with Cynthia Erivo. Now that Aretha’s estate has been settled, we can only hope there will be new projects that feature her amazing life.

Knowing Aretha was trying to keep your hands on a hurricane, or a whirling dervish. She was never boring. She kept everyone she knew on their feet! You had to be ready at a moment’s notice when the phone rang and a voice said, “We are on the bus and coming to New York for theater and shopping. Can we see” — and she would name a show that was sold out — “tonight?”

The answer had to be yes. Aretha was not good with time, so there were a couple of instances when curtains had to be held until she and her entourage arrived. But once she was seated — to thunderous applause from the audiences — she was focused and astute as a reviewer. She knew more, as they say, than could forget.

God bless you, Aretha. Your memory is a blessing.

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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