Today, the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 76. There have been an outpouring of tributes from everyone — and deservedly so — but one that caught our eye was Barbra Streisand’s.
Streisand tweeted, “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.” Streisand pointed out that Aretha Franklin wasn’t “just” an incredible singer — she was a dedicated activist.
This photo was taken in 2012 when Aretha & I performed at a tribute celebration for our friend Marvin Hamlisch. 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 pic.twitter.com/Px9zVB90MM
— Barbra Streisand (@BarbraStreisand) August 16, 2018
The image Streisand posted was at a tribute concert to Jewish musician Marvin Hamlisch. Hamlisch is one of 12 people ever to win an EGOT – that’s an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony.
But back to Franklin and her impressive civil rights chops. Her father was a civil rights activist who organized the 1963 Detroit Walk to Freedom, the march that set the stage for the iconic March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Franklin’s 1967 cover of the Otis Redding song “Respect” became an anthem of the feminist and civil rights movements. As Franklin’s biographer explains, “Aretha, in her reinvention, personalizes it: ‘You are going to give me respect when you come home.’ It becomes a woman thing. But her version is so deep and so filled with angst, determination, tenacity and all these contradictory emotions. That is how it became anthemic.”
Franklin toured the U.S. with Martin Luther King Jr., and performed at his funeral. As an African-American studies scholar, Professor Craig Werner, told NBC News, “There’s no way to overstate what Aretha meant to the generation that came of age during the Civil Rights Movement. She helped us make sense of experiences, insisting with enormous grace and fire that women’s voices had to be a part of every conversation. She holds a special place in the hearts of Vietnam veterans who knew she sung ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ to help them survive and heal.”
May her memory be a blessing.