Monday, September 3, 2018


A few days before Aretha died, a friend who grew up in Detroit told me she probably wouldn’t make the week. I tried to pooh-pooh it but my friend said, “Cyn, Aretha’s down to ninety-two pounds.” So, I was expecting it, but still wasn’t prepared.
I pulled up all of Aretha’s cuts on my playlist and made her the background of my day. I searched the Internet for her discography. “What was the first Aretha song I heard?” Damn, I hadn’t remembered that it was Mama, not me, who first brought Aretha into our house—yesterday I sang a love song, today I sing the blues. Aretha wasn’t singing my kind of music during her Columbia days. I was in high school then. My musical pallet didn’t expand to include the jazzy blues she recorded at Columbia until I was in my late twenties. 
Aretha became my girl when she moved to Atlantic Records. “Respect” rocked my freshman year at New York University. And “Natural Woman” was how my first love was making me feel sophomore year. 
I remembered Aretha with Don Cornelius on Soul Train. Seeing her close out the 25thAnnual Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans. Aretha taking the stage, time and time again, in her fur coat that she let fall to the ground when she was getting ready to cut loose. Teena Marie giving the knock out performance at BET’s tribute concert to Aretha fifteen years ago.
People who’d known Aretha were interviewed all day August sixteenth, the day we lost her. The one I felt most was Smokey’s on CBS This Morning. He spoke of hearing Aretha for the first time when she was five. Smokey said she was still planning to record when he visited her five weeks before her death.
Before I could post this blog Randy Weston died, a master pianist who synthesized African elements with jazz. Composer and vibraphonist Cecilia Smith posted this on Facebook. “They both possessed a unique gift of music that reached levels that does not come through practice! Both brought a transcendental power into the room when they performed, that was beyond the definition of amazing.”
So many musical holes. Whose gonna fill them?

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