When a legend passes away it feels like the world collectively stops for a moment to mourn the loss. Photos and videos capturing the ups and downs of their life are posted on the internet and shown on a loop on tv news channels. Older generations remember the moments a song brought them and younger generations learn about an artist that influenced all of the musicians they currently stream on Spotify. Aretha Franklin, the ‘Queen of Soul’ passed away on August 16th of this year at the age of 76 and her iconic life continues to be celebrated as her family and friends pay their respects at her funeral in her hometown Detroit, Michigan.
Raised in the church and groomed by her father C.C. Franklin who was a well known preacher, singing from the soul and heart was ingrained into Franklin at an early age and her powerful voice has been heard around the world throughout her career. The first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. 39 studio albums. 112 charted singles on Billboard. In this digital age of music, plenty of artists with varying levels of talent have reached and even surpassed some of Franklin’s records but they can’t touch the acclaim her voice got alone. Even if you didn’t grow up listening to her music or weren’t mesmerized by her live performances as she played the piano and sung her audience to hysteria; singles like “Respect”, “Think” or “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” are synonymous with the R&B and Soul genres and somehow find a way to everyone’s ears at one point of our lives. When I think about Aretha Franklin’s career or some of the other legendary artists that passed before her (R.I.P. to Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, David Bowie, Prince, Amy Winehouse and so many other talented souls) I wonder if the artists currently dominating the charts will have their careers immortalized like some of the greats.
Will Nicki Minaj’s 97 Billboard entries and ‘Queen of Rap’ title live on for decades to come? Since Hip Hop has taken the place of Rock in the mainstream genre of choice, will its history be celebrated and taught to new generations like the history of Rock & Roll was taught to us? Music has such a special power of impacting lives and when it becomes timeless and transcends to multiple generations, an artist can rest easy knowing that their words will never die. Beyonce is the one artist I can say without a doubt will be a legend of our time. Her music will live on and her career will be studied, emulated and most likely leave people wondering how she achieved so much success while maintaining so much control over the access of her personal life as the world gets more addicted to sharing and wanting to see every part of a person’s life on the internet. Streaming services will evolve the way cds superseded tapes but the thing that will remain constant is the priceless feeling of when an artist’s music truly touches your life.
Titles like “Legend” and “Icon” are so loosely given nowadays but when a great dies, we’re reminded of the dedication, talent and hardwork an artist needs to truly make an impact on the world. I don’t like to put one era of music in the “greatest music of all time” category because there’s trash music (that was even chart topping) in every era and time makes some music fans too nostalgic on music that wasn’t actually good. Newer artists who are creating amazing music and building their own legacies tend to get downplayed when the “back in my day” conversation gets brought up but there’s something special about acknowledging the groundbreaking music of the 60s, 70s and 80s. The blueprints of the guitar chords, harmonies and lyrics that we hear today can be heard in popular mainstream artists of the past or obscure records that musicians find and sample for their music and we can’t forget that “there’s nothing new under the sun”. As we mourn and celebrate the loss of another exceptional life, let’s remember that life is fleeting and we don’t always have as much time as we think we do. So do things that scare you. Work toward goals that will make you happy you got a chance to live on this earth. And more importantly, staying on theme with Aretha Franklin, R-E-S-P-E-C-T the greats and leave room for newer artists to aspire to reach that level of success and beyond.
Article By: Marcel “The Messenger” Jeremiah