What I Learned From Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin Tribute

As an 80s millennial raised in a house filled with music, I probably first recognized Aretha Franklin’s voice in the opening theme song to “A Different World.” That voice, which was declared a Michigan “natural resource” in 1985, gave those words life (“here’s our chance to make it, if we focus on our goals…”). It was powerful, soulful, empowering and yet warmly engaging — like if mother earth herself burst into song.

I am reminded of just how much her music has touched my life and others. Remember when she brought President Obama to tears with her rendition of Natural Woman at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors?

It would be far too easy to wax on about her storied career and decades of accolades. Instead, as the old adage instructs us to do, I’d rather give her flowers today.

So here, in a few words, are my flowers and what I learned from Aretha Franklin and her music:

Dear Queen of Soul, thank you for making me think, for teaching me how to r.e.s.p.e.c.t. myself, and what it means to be a natural woman.

Thank you for teaching me how to give him something he can feel, but more importantly about the perils of loving a man like I’ve never loved before. Before Beyonce put his things to the left and Mary said she was going down, you told me how to avoid jumping on that chain of fools in the first damn place.

Here’s to you, Queen, a rose among flowers.

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