When I was growing up things were pretty chaotic at my house. Much of the time I hid in my room reading books and listening to music.
I was 10 years-old when I found my first Aretha Franklin record in the garage. It was one of hundreds of dusty 45s that my dad left behind after the divorce. He was gone, but he had listened to the records so that made me feel connected to him. I remember the first time I heard Aretha’s voice coming out of the speaker on that tiny pink record player.
There was the drop of the needle, the warm crackle of the vinyl, then the piano started in sounding regal and reverent. Suddenly a voice bloomed like a flower in the dark room. It was so strong and beautiful, like nothing I’d ever heard on the pop radio station I listened to. The song was “Natural Woman.”
Aretha Franklin is probably my favorite vocalist of all time. Not only is she gifted with the world’s best pipes, but you can feel her presence in the delivery of each song. The things she sings about are situations that anyone can relate to, no matter what age.
“There are singers, then there is Aretha. She towers above the rest. Others are good, but Aretha is great. She’s my only sure-enough sister.” – Ray Charles
Of all of the hundreds of songs she’s done, I love “Think (About It)” best. It was the first song I remember seeing her perform. She walks out with full attitude in beginning of the “Blues Brothers” movie. Dressed like a fry cook, the woman sang like a queen!
Over the years my love for Aretha’s work extended into DJ remixes of her songs. The Danny Krivit/Daddy G remix of “Rock Steady” is the theme song for my weekly radio show because it’s at once cutting edge, modern and organically rhythmic and soulful. Just what I want the show to be.
Aretha Franklin’s original singles are some of the best music around.. My favorites are ”Think”, “Chain of Fools” and “Baby, I Love You.” They all still hold their own played in a set next to newer acts Spoon, Adele and Frank Ocean.
The 1967 film of young Aretha singing “Baby, I Love You” (where she wears those pink-striped pants) is my favorite of all of her performance videos.
Aretha Franklin is set to play four concert dates in the Eastern U.S. and Canada this fall. For more on Aretha visit her official site here.
Tune in to DJ Michele Myers Friday nights at 9pm on KEXP radio. Music Historian and Producer, Michele’s made over 200 radio stories for KEXP Documentaries. She’s written scripts, lesson plans and features for Experience Music Project, University of Washington and NPR.