Great Performances: She Loves Me

Candi Staton

Gospel promoters would put on these “caravan” tours – like a festival today. They would have us on the same programme. And that’s how I met Aretha, she was about 16. At that time, CL Franklin – Aretha’s father – was the first pastor that had a sermon on a vinyl record. It was called The Eagle Stirs His Nest. She would play the piano – Precious Lord – or sing Amazing Grace, or something to get the atmosphere right for her father to preach.

If I can use the expression, she tore the place up when she sang. People were just in awe of her singing. She was such a talented young girl and her father was a dynamic preacher, and they were good together, a great combination. She was really influenced by her dad. I thought she was the most talented person ever; I was simply in awe of her. She had such a beautiful voice. She was always quiet though. We would try to play with her and she would keep to herself. But she would laugh and smile. We did a lot of shows with them.

[Muscle Shoals’] Rick Hall was the producer to bring her into the R&B field. When I auditioned for him, I did I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You). He said, “I wish you had another song because I was the one who produced that with Aretha.” My knees starting shaking – I was like, “Oh, Lord!” She was always a wonderful person and I still love her.

When I did the David Letterman show, Aretha and I talked back and forth for about two months over email. The second time I did Letterman, I would do the full song with the audience and then they would only show the ending or the beginning before Dave Letterman would come back in with his guests. And so she called them up and she said, “Why didn’t you let her sing more?!” She want to bat for me. So that’s my Aretha. She was like Whitney Houston. You can’t replace those voices.

‘The world’s most beautiful protest’ … Aretha Franklin (left) with her father CL Franklin and sister Caroline.Photograph: HO/AFP/Getty Images

Martha Reeves

My prayers are with Aretha and her family. I celebrate her life. I celebrate the gifts she gave to the world of music, and to the world in general; to society and to the city of Detroit, which we both loved and which we still call home. We are sisters in song and sisters in the faith, so I look forward to the day when we will be together again.

Joan Armatrading

Aretha’s performance of A Natural Woman, when they were honouring Carole King at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015, is the most beautiful rendition of practically any song ever. I urge anybody to look that up on YouTube and understand the wonder of this woman. Her voice is amazing, her piano playing is amazing. She’s got a high register, and when you hear someone with a high voice it can sound monotonous, but she manages to get different tones in that high register, so she can really hit some incredible notes. She puts in all the emotions in that you could possibly want.

She sang for Martin Luther King, for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; she was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; she’s got 18 Grammy awards. It’s endless, the things she’s done – and it’s endless because of the voice she had. This is the beauty of special artists, and I would include Whitney Houston in this – everyone will want to have an association with them, and wish they could use that voice.

Aretha Franklin performing (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman at the Kennedy Center, 2015.

Aretha is called the Queen of Soul, not just because she sings soul music, but when she sings, there is soul. It’s not just a label on a genre – it’s about how to put across a song. That’s why Carole King was crying during that performance – she wrote the song, she knows the meaning, but when Aretha sang her words, she really put the full stop on it. Aretha knew what Carole King was trying to say and how she had to portray that song. She was interpreting her words to a level even King didn’t know was there. I don’t know how you learn to do that – it has to be in you. Anyone can learn to sing, or play, but you can’t teach people to feel. That way of holding back when you need to, pushing forward when you need to, all at the right time. You can learn to hit a chord loudly, but that’s not expression. Aretha’s was an innate talent.

Mike Garson

First of all, we’ve lost one of the greatest artists we’ve ever had. I got familiar with her when I was living in Brooklyn in 1966, 1967. Her talent was undeniable. That’s nothing nobody else knows, but I have just a small window of insight into how she could affect a white, English singer who I happened to be working with, David Bowie.

We’re driving in the limo through the United States, doing the Aladdin Sane tour. I’m watching David take the whole country. He’s got this great set of headphones on and he’s listening to Aretha Franklin, and I’m thinking, “Wow, this is very different for him. What does he have in mind?” Well, David being well ahead of his time, he was already planning the Young Americans album. He was hearing me play gospel piano on a lot of the tracks. He was thinking of those great songs and he’s absorbing like a sponge, like the ultimate chameleon, the essence of this great, great singer and individual, who also had a very strong social conscience. She was so connected to Martin Luther King. She had a bigger viewpoint than just her own greatness as a singer. She was bringing something to the black community. Especially then, that was so important.

David Bowie presents Aretha Franklin with the 1975 Grammy for best female R&B vocal performance – video

I remember watching on television when she won a Grammy, seeing David introduce her, you could see the love and the connection. And if one watches that on YouTube, he’s being David: he’s funny, he’s quirky, he’s brilliant, he’s looking beyond great, dressed to the hilt. You could see her respect for him. But he snuck in one word in the midst of all the craziness of the 70s. And it was just the word “love”. Despite whatever was going on in his life, or her life, or the world, they understood the essence of love. People forget that about people like Aretha or Whitney Houston or David or Prince. People forget, I think because they get involved in their personalities, that every one of these artists was raising the consciousness level of the planet through love and through music, which is probably the most powerful healing force. There’s probably an amazing choir up there now where they’re all singing.

Alexander O’Neal

I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Aretha in person, but she was definitely an inspiration to me musically. A legend and an icon, her voice, and her music, were really very special. She always seemed to take so much joy from her music. She was instrumental in soul music breaking into the mainstream; she really led the way for soul artists. She opened the doors for many of us who followed and had successful international music careers.

Aretha Franklin performing in New York in 1993, watched by (from left) singers Smokey Robinson, Gloria Estefan, Rod Stewart, Bonnie Raitt and actors Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro.Photograph: Ron Frehm/AP

Gloria Estefan

For as long as I can remember, Aretha Franklin has been the absolute zenith, the guiding light, the master for any girl that aspired to sing, or even just appreciated someone at the top of their game. I was blessed to have sung with her on more than one occasion and each time I felt that I was in the presence of musical royalty that would forever raise the bar and set the standard. Long live the Queen of Soul, through her extraordinary and singular voice, and her indelible music.

William Bell

Artists like Aretha Franklin don’t come along very often. In my mind, Aretha and Sam Cooke are the two individuals that defined the beginnings of soul music. She defined an era and has endured through five generations of soul music lovers. She came out of the church like most of us soul singers, but she had a way of expressing a lyric or a feeling that nobody else had.

Aretha changed the course of music and people’s lives. She was there during the civil rights struggles and her songs kept people going and motivated. Music brings people together and she was able to do that, so people forgot their problems and the struggles they were going through. Her music was at the heart of the era’s drive for black and female liberation.

Respect was originally written and performed by Otis Redding, but when she sang a song, her interpretation of the lyrics made it her own. When Otis heard Respect he said: “That is her song now.” He did a great job, but she defined “respect”. When she spelled out the word in the song it became an anthem of female emancipation that could apply to males, too. But that was Aretha. She was an innovative singer. She believed what she was singing about and she made a believer out of the listener, so millions of people felt like she was singing to them. That is a rare talent and to project like that takes a depth of emotion.

Things like losing her mom at an early age [nine] and then later on having her father injured and in a coma for so long [he was shot twice after disturbing intruders in the family home] would have affected her, but she was never one to roll over. She was motivated by the challenges of life, which came through in her music. She could sing any kind of song. I remember once at an awards show, Pavarotti was under the weather and she stepped in on the spur of the moment and did an operatic song. She was a musician too, a wonderful pianist. Growing up in her father’s church, she learned how to express herself.

‘Her instrument was unlike anything else’ ... Aretha Franklin.Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/REDFERNS

We did some concerts together when I was an up and coming act, I covered Do Right Woman, Do Right Man and we talked on several occasions over the years, like at the [2006] Sam Cooke tribute. It was always a pleasure to be in her presence. She was open and warm to me and other artists, and she loved meeting fans and talking with them, but there was no pretence about her. If she didn’t like something, she let you know. She was a stickler for getting the music and everything just right – including backstage in her dressing room and everything. But that’s what artists do when they are perfectionists.

I love Respect of course – it’s defining – but when she would sing those ballads, Do Right Woman or Day Dreaming, for example, the sound and texture of her voice just crept into your soul. The world has lost a wonderful person, a great artist and innovator. She will be missed and she will be remembered.

Joe Bonamassa

Aretha Franklin was a once in a lifetime voice and talent. Her passing reminds us all never to take for granted that our heroes will be around for ever, and how lucky we all are to have lived in the lifetime of one of the all-time greats. Her contributions are as enormous as they are unparalleled. Her soul and voice have no equal nor will they ever. She wrote the playbook for all of us to enjoy.

Meshell Ndegeocello

Of course, her instrument was unlike anything else. Her gift was so vast and transcendent – of genre, of age, of cultural stereotypes. She was so gracious but when Aretha sang opera, she changed the rules of the game. I think she was just doing what she knew she could do, but I felt like it was the world’s most beautiful protest.

She lost her mother at nine, and I’ve always thought about that when I hear her voice. Her music was among the few things that connected me to my mother. For all the ways and reasons we couldn’t see each other, Aretha belonged to us both. She touched everybody, and was like nobody. I can only think she is returning where she was truly born, among the angels.

Franklin at the rehearsal for the Aretha Franklin: Duets concert, April 1993.Photograph: Catherine McGann/Getty Images

Bonnie Raitt

I am so saddened by the loss of our beloved Queen of Soul, Aretha. She has always been my favourite, and the greatest singer I’ve ever heard. Along with Ray Charles, she has been the most influential artist in my life. She brought the raw passion and beauty of gospel and the deepest blues, irrepressible rhythm to every note she sang. In songs like I Never Loved a Man, Dr Feelgood, Respect, Natural Woman, Ain’t No Way, I learned as a teenager most of what I still know about men, love, strength and vulnerability in the face of loss and betrayal; about the deep well of spirit and surrender to a higher purpose, including standing up for oneself and demanding respect.

Her phrasing, both vocally and in her great piano playing, set her above almost all others. And let us not forget to acknowledge the incredible team of songwriters, musicians, engineers and producers who helped bring out the genius and soul in this remarkable woman.

She gave us the raw power and dimension of what a real, “natural” woman could be, in the ups and downs of her life, in the way she buckled and came back again and again. All the pain, longing, lust, rage and tenderness will always be there in her voice for us to treasure and remain in awe for all time. I will continue to honour and be eternally grateful for the gift she gave us for these many years. May she rest and be reunited with her beloved family in eternal peace. God bless and thank you, dear Aretha. You will always be our Queen of Soul.

Aretha Franklin and Bonnie Raitt: (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman – video

Zara McFarlane

Her voice is a powerhouse of sound that no one else, I think, can match. Whenever you hear her voice, you know it’s her, which is what you want as a singer.

She’s bringing that idea of spirituality from the church, a sound she grew up with, to pop music. Her vocal style is almost oratory preaching: the idea of sharing your ideas and thoughts and emotions, and releasing them, is what you often do in church. And the idea of conversation and dialogue and raw expression, all of this I can hear in her voice, in the way she delivers a song.

I’m really passionate about trying to explore and express emotion, and music has that ability to get that out of other people. As adults, we’re used to hiding our emotions for different situations – that’s a big part of what people believe being an adult is! You have to be a certain way at work, with your children, and hold back. But music allows us to express, and she does that. You hear all the different elements of expression and emotion in her singing.

If you think of the top vocalists of the last few decades, Whitney’s up there, Mariah’s up there, and Beyoncé is up there nowadays. But Aretha’s power far exceeds any of them. Whitney had some of that church sound to her too, but she was still quite composed, and “placed”. Still powerful, but a bit prettier. Aretha, though, has an earthiness and rawness in her sound which I truly associate with spirituality. When you’re in church, you get to a point where people are crying on the floor, at least in the church I went to. They’re “catching spirit”, where you get taken over by spirits and they make you react in different kinds of ways, speaking tongues, when it’s something outside of yourself that’s coming out through you. And Aretha’s voice is coming out of her like that. It’s probably something she can’t even really control – it’s something that was blessed to her. And that sheer expression, and openness, she had to just release.

Macy Gray

She was a giant. I melted every time I heard her records.

Aretha Franklin and George Benson backstage at Benson’s recent performance in Detroit.Photograph: George Benson

George Benson

To say that I will miss Aretha would be an understatement. We could never give back the love she showed us with her great performances. Aretha Franklin’s name and legacy will live beyond our time and will inspire generations to come.

Beverley Knight

She changed everything. Everything. When she really found her voice working with Jerry Wexler, not since Sam Cooke had people heard spirituality – not necessarily godliness – and music put together in that way before. That’s what made her unique. She knew how to communicate deep, primal human emotion through notes, through melody – not just lyrics – in a way that was just extraordinary. She could just hum and you didn’t need the words, you knew what that hum conveyed.

I believe when people attempt to learn that as a technical practice, it sounds learned. It can only be felt. So that’s why when you hear her sing Natural Woman at the Kennedy Center, in front of Carole King and the Obamas, that’s why it’s markedly different from the album – it’s all the same soul, all the same passion, but it’s also how she’s feeling at that time. It doesn’t just move you, it shakes you. And that’s what she did. She knew where the silence should be and she knew where the power should be. She knew how to respect a melody and yet do things to it that just elevated it.

Watching her play and sing Don’t Play That Song for Me was just a joy. She played like she sang. The weight of her touch was every bit as soulful as her vocal, her first instrument. What Aretha was doing was very rhythmical, a lot of her playing. There’s lots of colouring-in notes, but there’s loads of rhythmical notes as well. It was a less anchored style, it was much more of a free-flowing sound. Like her voice. Where it needed to just hit a particular melody, it did, but then it went off and did its own thing. It was so, so church. Church, church, church. There was nothing pop in the way she played. It’s rooted in the church, but to call it just Christianity would put a massive box on it – it was way more than that. That would be to limit what she did both with her vocals and with her playing. Otherworldly.

And the 1972 recording at her dad’s church is just a work of utter genius. Before the news broke that she was ill, I was listening to that. I listen to Aretha often, the way I listen to Prince and Sam Cooke often, just to remind myself of what it sounds like to be so utterly in control of what you do. That particular album is flawless – not technically flawless because there’s so many things going on in the background and the recording isn’t always perfect – but flawless because the emotion is so deeply felt.

Aretha Franklin performs at the Concert for the Hurricane Katrina Rescue Fund, 12 September 2005.Photograph: Angello Picco/REX/Shutterstock

Glen Matlock

Such a loss of a giant influence on popular culture. She spoke to the lovelorn, lost and disaffected of not only her own race but people of all stripes in a way that brought hope to your soul, with total honesty, from the very depths of hers. A sad day.

Lee Fields

Aretha epitomises to me the ultimate in what female liberation could be – she was the catalyst for transforming the 20th-century woman into the 21st-century woman, because her songs were so liberating. She’s singing that gender is about respect. But at the same time, it’s done in a beautiful way – that a man should already know what she’s saying before she’s even said it to him. Aretha Franklin was like the female James Brown. James was the king, she was the queen. And a king ain’t nothing without a queen, understand?

Not only did her music transcend gender, it also encompassed human dignity, and human pride for each other. Although I never got the chance to meet this wonderful musical deity, it’s sort of like Whitney – she transcended barriers, where you don’t necessarily meet the person personally, but the message is filled inside you. She soothed whatever your situation may be, with her style – her voice was very soothing, and highly enchanting.

Aretha was always reinventing herself. When she did that song [I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)] with George Michael, man, that was another spin – we were in another time but it still had a gospel feel to it, it was still about joy and happiness. Her music brought many of us that were maybe wandering off, or a little bit lost, she brought the flock right back in. Although she was singing secular music, she was transforming secular music into gospel. Aretha never left her gospel roots, so when you heard her, you felt spiritually enlightened. She seals moments in time, the moments of our lives that are important – her voice was able to do this. But she also has the ability to transcend time with her melodies, and the way she expresses herself in her music. She was the archetype for what female singers are today.

Source : https://www.msn.com/en-gb/entertainment/music/she-doesnt-just-move-you-she-shakes-you-all-star-tributes-to-aretha-franklin/ar-BBM32X9

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