SO The Queen of Soul has gone home!
Where exactly will be “home” for Aretha Franklin?
On this planet, “home” for her will be to be planted firmly in the hearts of millions. For I cannot conceive of a human heart that was ever exposed to the singing of The Queen, who did not fall in love with her voice.
Some of the music that her record companies contracted her to perform was beneath her, yes. But she did the BEST that was possible, even with all that commercial stuff. When everything else failed and a piece of music was beginning to turn into a dud, she could YELL her way out of it! And those YELLS were so musical that they seduced you, and rescued you from the thought of poor quality music in relation to Aretha.
For the ultimate truth about Aretha was that she didn’t just sing songs. She presented a VOICE. A singular VOICE, at the same time deep and thin; triumphant and pathetic; a VOICE that said, “Hey, are you human? Then stay and don’t go away. For whatever you want from a singer, I’ve got it.” As one song put it: “What do you want? You know I’ve got it!”
That wasn’t a boast. She really did have it. In 1968, I spent three months abroad, travelling alone and hardly ever staying long enough in any town to make friends or find out how to really enjoy my stay. I could have gone out of my mind had I not, by mystical grace, purchased a battery-operated, portable record-player. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but the first records I played on the machine – a friend might have given them to me – were those of Aretha Franklin.
My favourite song in the collection was ‘Save Me!’ The rhythm of that song was peculiarly in consonance with my mood. I couldn’t help tapping my feet and bopping my head up and down when I heard it. And then, there were those two loaded words – ‘Save Me!’
Followed By ‘Somebody Save Me!’
Who was this “somebody” I was pleading with to “save me”? It didn’t seem to matter. I uttered that prayer again and again through Aretha’s voice, and I felt stronger. In the face of the loss of friendly voices. The lack of certainty that dogs one when one wanders alone in strange cities. The unfulfilled need to know what was happening to my loved ones “behind my back” in an age not yet fully conversant with the mobile phone.
As the dark vacuum of not knowing what was happening took concrete form and began to haunt my imagination in hotel rooms that projected crappy television, I would play “I say a little prayer”. I prayed that my family should be safe; that my friends should be ok; and that we would all be reunited in a little while.
For Aretha’s voice transmitted both resolute strength and tender love. “I never loved a man the way I love you” it said plainly. The ‘flirtatious’ manner in which she said it that turned words of love into a “me-and-you” special thing that elicited secrets and fantasies known not even to oneself.
And then she sealed it all with this acknowledgement of one’s importance in one’s relationship with the beloved partner: “You make me feel like a natural woman!” Which man lived that never fantasised that he was the only man who could bring out the full woman in a lover? Make her shout and yell orgasmically, as Aretha did – “AOOOOOUUUUUU!…. YEEEEES!…. MY MAN!”
I sent many of her records back home, with the metaphysical command that the words of love they contained should be felt by the one who I hoped was missing me and whom I missed so badly. I thought I would be able to hear her humming:
“The moment I wake up,
Before I put on my makeup,
I say a little prayer for you…..
While combing my hair, now
And wondering what dress to wear, now…!”
And then, the final, forceful declaration:
“Forever, forever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you!
Forever and ever ….”
Wow! Aretha! You did the job The Almighty gave you such a golden voice for. Now go in peace and lighten the darkness of other souls in the Observable Universe and other possible Universes hidden by mysterious forces called “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy”.
Listen to this:
QUOTE: [Astronomers estimate that] “The observable universe has more than 100 billion galaxies. Our own Milky Way is home to around 300 billion stars, but it’s not representative of galaxies in general…….By measuring the number and luminosity of observable galaxies, astronomers put current estimates of the total stellar population at roughly 70 billion trillion (7 x 1022)…..”UNQUOTE
WHAT? Yes! There is even talk of a multiverse as against the universe! That means there could be parallel universes whose existence is inferred from the way the observable universe is expanding with unimaginable acceleration. Where is it going? Where will it end?
Surely, such a beautiful soul as Aretha will meet us again somewhere in these mind-boggling states of being?
I fancy that certain gifted people – musicians, poets, and inventors, for example – are so important to the multiverse in its self-appointed task of explaining its mysterious self to its creations that their work is never done in any one locality.
And some of these blessed souls will be charged with the task of living for ever and bringing light to dark areas. Certainly, that was not beyond the imagination of the Egyptian mystics and their students, the Greek philosopher-poets.
So let it be with Aretha! For me, I’d love nothing better than encounter her somewhere in the vast space and time beyond life on Planet Earth, to thank her in person.
By CAMERON DUODU