When Aretha Franklin died last week, it stopped me in my tracks, and made me think about the Effect that her music had on me since 1967. When I purchased the album “I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You”, I was just 16 years old. As I listened to track after track, I was mesmerized by something; I was, in hindsight, too young to completely understand what I was hearing, but I knew there was something in that voice, those lyrics, and those melodies.
I played the album over and over again until it became scratchy and flawed from use. I could not get enough of that combination of angst, sorrow, heartache, resignation, and sarcasm in songs like “I Never Loved A Man”,” “Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream”, and “Baby, Baby, Baby”. There was also another set of feeling and sentiments that arose with the iconic “Respect”. Even though I had no romantic experience to my credit at that time, I felt a connection to Aretha when she told her man what she wanted and needed from him. All of it was powerful and earth-shattering, and I wanted whatever that was!
When I reflect on how many of her songs were part of the soundtrack of my young adult years, the songs seem like a collection of the long-kept letters of a sister, cousin, aunt, or close friend. The letters that are bundled in my den closet, ready to be re-read at a moment’s notice. When I listen to these tunes now, they bring back memories, happy and sad, of another place and time; a time when I was learning about heartbreak, the joys of first love, the sorrow of permanent loss. The Aretha Effect is one of the companionship of fellow sufferers, the elation of sharing newfound freedoms and empowerment, and the bond of sisterhood that makes all women connected.
Merriam Webster defines “soul” as: “A strong positive feeling, as of intense sensitivity and emotional fervor”. So that’s what it was I was hearing and feeling way back in 1967. No wonder I wanted IN.
Thank you, Aretha, Queen of Soul, for bringing me your great gifts of creativity, passion, and love through your Music. You’ll always have quite an Effect on me.