In the late 1960’s a young Aretha Franklin lugged her manager husband through an era when women, and specifically black women were considered second class citizens who were appendages for men in marriage and industry.
But Aretha used the power of song and her voice to overcome abusive husbands, bad managers who made horrendous mistakes in her career for their own benefit, to fuel lyrics for hits like “Respect”, “Chain of Fools”, and “Think”, these songs were written in 1967 when our culture was going through terrible transition, and Aretha through the power of her voice got the message through, and America listened.
The songs still work today, go ask Alexa to play “Spanish Harlem” by Aretha Franklin. You will hear the dichotomy of the plight of minority on both side of the street in the lyric. It was so subtle, but understand it still works 40 years later, and sadly the message has been heard but culturally America has not changed enough.
When we think of music and messaging the gospel roots of Aretha make us ask questions about what music opens our eyes in unsubtle ways. I like songs that tells a story in a pragmatic way. Most artists embed their messaging deep into the music leaving the listener to pluck out the message, often when someone enlightens you, you listen to the song differently, and then the message resonates even deeper.
This is truly the power of music, and Aretha Franklin passing reopened my eyes to the transom lyrics and messaging takes. Aretha was talking about her pain, the unjust nature of the music business, her relationships, cultural genocide, and she did this with her voice and a piano. I think it is perfectly acceptable to search for the message in music and get exactly what you need – and when you get what you need – think of Aretha in “Say a Little Prayer”.