The Queen and Me

16 Aug



At Atlantic Records in the early 90s during my time as entertainment editor at Essence Magazine. 

So Arthea Franklin died today and I don’t know how to feel. I guess the best description is I’m feelin’ some kind of way. On my morning drive to work, WBLS was playing her songs, I think most stations are doing all-day tributes. Of course I hear, I say A Little Prayer, Ain’t Never Loved a Man, Call Me, Don’t Play That Song for Me,  Ain’t No Way–WHAT!! Until You Come Back to Me, get me all in my feelings and Jump to it, Who’s Zoomin Who, Dr, Feelgood, Day Dreamin, Oh Me Oh My, Call Me–I can’t…got me feelin’ that thing in my chest, that I don’t care who’s lookin’ while doin’ the ugly face bop in my convertible.  . Her voice is soul music. Her songs make me feel uplifted, sad, a longing, the make me reminisce for home. I miss home. Her sound was the best kind of music, the kind that enters you and moves around, makes a place in your soul and doesn’t leave.

When I was growing up in my South Ward/Weequahic section neighborhood in Newark there was a record stored own by a cigar-chompin, race-man, Hampton graduate named James Sedgewick, later christened Kaboobie by my brother Marc. Kaboobie had mounted a speaker outside his store, which was down the block from my house. He’d play R & B, jazz, speeches by Malcolm and Martin; he’d play Dick Gregory and inside the store, for my brothers, his friends and select male customers he’d play Pigmeat Markham’s “blue” comedy albums.

Mine was a rich neighborhood and Aretha was literally part of the soundtrack of my childhood.

My kids remember growing up, being in the back seat of the car, being treated, they would say tortured, by me singing along with ReRe on the radio. Every time, I would look in the rearview mirror and say, “Who’s the Queen of Soul?” they’d wearily recite, Aretha Franklin. I’d give the same quiz when we heard James Brown.

I wanted them to understand that soul music birthed all popular music and not just in this country. Black American soul music begat The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis and too many to name–the recent heirs like Adele gladly hail the queen. My kids’ indoctrination was about more than just understanding musical history, but the huge contribution our people made to the culture.

I’m thrilled to see all the Aretha tributes in the New York Times and beyond. While it’s sad to think we’ll never again hear her voice live, what she’s left behind is a life lived out loud. A talent that we probably won’t see for a long time.

Rest in Peace ReRe.

2 Responses to “The Queen and Me”

  1. Fern Gillespie August 17, 2018 at 1:05 am #

    Benilde. Such a poignant tribute—from the old school Newark record store to your cheering kids in the backseat. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Mindful Leader August 17, 2018 at 1:36 pm #

    Oh, ‘Retha is home to me, all of Detroit in my insides and outer spiritual sass, all and everything sweet as the salt of the earth. Makes me cry, but also lifts me in the power that we are.

    Cecilia B. Loving

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