Queen of Soul Franklin commands respect for ages

For many in her core audience of baby boomers, the hit records of Aretha Franklin spanning five lively decades constitute a playlist of their lives.

From “Think” to “Chain of Fools” to “Natural Woman” to “Who’s Zooming Who?” to “I Say A Little Prayer” to “Freeway of Love” to her last charted 2015 hit “Rolling In the Deep,” Franklin, who died Thursday of pancreatic cancer at age 76, commanded the attention and admiration of a strong and revering fan base.

And as the title of her signature anthem for women’s empowerment released eons before the dawn of the #MeToo movement evoked, she commanded “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” from a diverse coterie of musical, civil-rights and political leaders across the nation and around the world.

That respect is reflected in the many superlatives of her life. She ranks as the most-often charted female vocalist of the modern era. She became the first woman ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. And she received the Presidential Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from Republican President George W. Bush.

In musical royalty, many compare the legacy of the Queen of Soul to the iconic King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley. Ironically, both megastar artists died on the same day of the year, Aug. 16.


But the respect that diva Franklin projected in her music and in her life perhaps plays out best in the thoughtful and heart-felt tributes pouring in around the globe from luminaries of all disciplines whose lives were powerfully impacted by the indisputable gold standard she set.

Barbra Streisand, a superstar contemporary of Franklin’s: “It’s difficult to conceive of a world without her. Not only was she a uniquely brilliant singer, but her commitment to civil rights made an indelible impact on the world.”

President Donald J. Trump: “The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is dead. She was a great woman, with a wonderful gift from God, her voice. She will be missed!”

Former President Bill Clinton: “For more than 50 years, she stirred our souls. She was elegant, graceful, and utterly uncompromising in her artistry. Aretha’s first music school was the church, and her performances were powered by what she learned there. I’ll always be grateful for her kindness and support, including her performances at both my inaugural celebrations, and for the chance to be there for what sadly turned out to be her final performance last November at a benefit supporting the fight against HIV/AIDS.

And one of Franklin’s most adoring admirers, former President Barack Obama: “Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade_our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.”

Dozens and dozens of other tributes present similar messages. Collectively, they reinforce our belief that Aretha Franklin’s unparalleled talents, sterling career and compassionate humanity will command respect for the ages.

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