The Lady Soul died of pancreatic cancer on Thursday, at the age of 76. This is the most majestic and impressive female voice in the history of soul music.
By Bruno De Geest
"I lost my song, this girl took it from me. It was with the indignant compliments of the author, Otis Redding, that the emergence of a young woman who had literally expropriated the star of soul music, was praised in the spring of 1967. From a title, certainly tonic but limited to the evocation of a banal household quarrel, Aretha Franklin had made Respect a universal anthem for equality. of the Civil Rights Movement of Martin Luther King, but also of the woman (regardless of her skin color) versus the man, challenged to show what he is capable of – "sock it for me" Provocative launched by the choir includes several meanings, including sexual.
Jubilating with his vocal flutter, his funky guitar and his brass snaps, [Arte Franklin] respect Respect immediately brought to the top of the American record sales charts, which then came into practice, behind the genre alibi, racial segregation: rhythm & blues (for black audiences) and pop (for whites). Aretha won her crown of "Queen of Souls", a title that was never challenged. The "king" Otis would die in a plane crash a few months later.
Aretha Franklin died of pancreatic cancer, Thursday, August 16, at the age of 76, announced his Actor Gwendolyn Quinn With her goes the most majestic and most impressive (four octave) female voice in the history of soul music. It does not matter that the best of his career, since the mid-seventies, is decreasing and handicapped by canceling concerts for health problems (in 2010, May-June 2013, 2017 and Spring 2018), can be summarized as: short period (1967-1972) merging with the golden age of record company Atlantic.
The daughter of the Reverend Clarence LaVaughn Franklin
The singer has imposed a picture of a strong woman (while it is by nature was rather introverted), never a calculator. The opposite, as it were, of the mannered refinement of her sister and fellow citizen of Detroit, Michigan, Diana Ross, who had to intrigue to be projected into the limelight.
Her father, for whom she had a desperate admiration throughout her life, was one of the most respected religious authorities in the black community
The Muse of Music had looked at the birthplace of this daughter of Reverend Clarence LaVaughn Franklin and his wife Barbara, pianist and singer. Born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, the child is brought up in the church of the gospel, which is a great banality for a soul artist. What is less is his kinship. Her father, for whom she had a desperate admiration throughout her life (he was seriously injured by burglars in 1979, and then succumbed to [five years] after five years of coma), was one of the most respected religious authorities in the community
The pastor, founder of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, gathered a few thousand herds and demanded the modest sum of $ 4,000 per homily. He even recorded his sermons for Chess Records, the chicagoan label of bluesman Muddy Waters and rocker Chuck Berry, who had both acquired "devil's music".
This cannabis-smoking father had broad ideas: jazz was not only tolerated but also invited to the big Detroit family home visited by pianist Art Tatum and gospel singers Mahalia Jackson and Sam Cooke, who will be Aretha's models.
At 14, first admissions and first child
Separated from his wife, Reverend Franklin raises four of his five children and constantly encourages his prodigy daughter. At the age of 5, Aretha is already singing in the church. When she was 11, just when she lost her mother, she was promoted to solo and started recording her first recordings at 14 with the album Songs of Faith published by a small local label. Early. Not only for the music, because in the same year she gives birth to a son.
The highly gifted also participates in the evangelical journeys of his father, who confronts it with racism, restaurants or petrol stations that refuse to serve blacks. His reputation grew to the point that two labels approached him: Gordy, founded in Detroit by a former Chrysler worker and known worldwide as Tamla Motown and RCA, on the recommendation of Sam Cooke
It is finally a White, the discoverer of talents, John Hammond, who gets his signature for Columbia. He has revealed Billie Holiday and is preparing to do the same with Bob Dylan. Hammond takes his recruit to New York. He will secretly fail to deepen his talent. He is often criticized for not understanding the potential of the young woman, because he was mistaken by sending him to vocal jazz and standard rehearsals. He was undoubtedly a prisoner of his employer's demands.
After nine albums and six lost years Aretha Franklin broke with Columbia in 1966. Good decision because his fate will suddenly accelerate when he joins Atlantic, the label of the brothers Ertegun and producer Jerry Wexler, who accompanies the career of Ray Charles. The recording session of I Never Loved a Man went down in history: the girl of a good black family and northerly lands in the deep south and sees herself face to face white musicians from FAME Studios, Muscle Shoals. In this Alabama's sinister reputation where were repressed in the blood, less than two years earlier, the protest marches of Selma with Montgomery
A climate of mutual mistrust s & # 39; installs, it even bursts between Aretha's man, Ted White and the trumpet player of the session. Abuse of bourbon? Racial conflict? The singer hastily leaves Muscle Shoals, but a catch, miraculous, can be achieved. She was not impressed, moved to the piano (an instrument she would later have the bad habit to stop), to lead the groove with the organ, with her vocal acrobatics the crescendo of the drums and brass, and then start to calm down.
I have never loved a man is broadcasted immediately by radio, but Jerry Wexler will not renew the Alabama experience. He brought the Muscle Shoals Southerners to Atlantic Studios in New York to finish the album. Added to this are saxophonist King Curtis, Memphis Horns, buyer of the Stax label, and Sweet Inspirations to the choirs (with Cissy Houston, Whitney's mother).
With the expert complicity of Wexler, the songs recorded during three years later will form a best of Aretha Franklin: Respect, of course, but also Baby I Love You Chain of Fools Think or The house that Jack built . The phenomenon transforms in gospel gold everything it touches, the heartbreaking sentimentalism of Is not No Way written by his younger sister, Carolyn, as the refined pop melodies of Carole King and Gerry Goffin ( You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman ) and Burt Bacharach ( I Say a Little Prayer ). Three albums of those years have become unmistakably classics: besides I have never loved a man The Way I Love You Lady Soul and Aretha Now both appeared in 1968, when they the cover of Time made under the band "The sound of soul". His song resonates in all transistors in America and elsewhere.
Beginning of artistic decay
His dizzying voice found the perfect balance between fervor and pain. Because what quickly filters out of her life is less radiant: a violent husband she leaves in 1969, the loyal companion of the alcohol.
The soul enters a cloudy and dark period. Musically, hedonism will return in the form of funk and disco
The enthusiasm of the soul, symbol of the brotherhood between black and white musicians, has been overtaken by the urban riots of the summer of 1967. Like many others, the Reverend Franklin, who was a supporter of Martin Luther King – Aretha sings during the funeral of the doctor, in April 1968, radicalized and frequent community groups. The soul goes into a dark and dark period. Musically, hedonism comes back in the form of funk and then disco. Politically, it takes four decades before a black president is elected. It will be Barack Obama who, like any admirer, struggles to control his emotions when the "Lady Soul" begins to sing. This was the case in January 2009, during his inauguration ceremony. Aretha Franklin makes a splash with his enormous gray button toque while playing a gospel version of the patriotic anthem My Country, "Tis of Thee .
The years & # 39; 70 marked the commercial apogee and began to refuse artistically (exacerbated by the departure of Wexler Atlantic in 1976) a singer who sometimes seems to be satisfied with his performance. Adopted by the hippie generation, as evidenced by the fiery live double-captured in March 1971 at Fillmore West in San Francisco, the star still collects hits – Bridge Over Troubled Water Spanish Harlem or Rock Steady – and collaborates with the greatest musicians of his time, Quincy Jones, Curtis Mayfield or Lamont Dozier, one of Motown's geniuses. She still publishes great albums, more orchestrated and slow tempo, such as Spirit in the Dark (1970) or Young, Gifted & Black ("young, talented and black" 1972), a proclamation borrowed from Nina Simone. On the stage she cultivates her unpredictable and fickle diva character with extravagant dresses, her hair brought back into a bun or wearing a "Back to Africa" boubou.
At the source of the gospel
At the same time she regularly returns to the source of the gospel, this music that she presented a profane form without ever desecrating it. She finds the sacred fire there, or with Amazing Grace (1972), whose recording, in a Baptist temple in Los Angeles, was filmed by Sydney Pollack and was the subject of a documentary whose broadcast has been since 2015 blocked by the singer's lawyers. Or with the double album One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism captured in 1987 at the New Bethel Baptist Church, where it all started for her.
On that date, however, career is in a bind. His break with Atlantic at the beginning of the 80s was fatal. At Arista she presents the caricature that is expected of her in the film The Blues Brothers . Gradually his choices seem to focus on one goal: reaching the mature and conservative public with the highest purchasing power, with the exception of, late, the album A Rose Is Still a Rose (1998), of which the title track is written by Lauryn Hill. Her sister Tina Turner has managed to come back to the foreground, why not? This strategy goes through a dull sequence of duets, with Eurythmics and Frank Sinatra, George Michael or Elton John. Very thin, Aretha Franklin had sung in November 2017 on behalf of the Foundation of the fight against AIDS of the latter, during his last appearance. Earlier she had announced a new album, with the participation of Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie and (still) Elton John.
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His disks, with disappointing sales, were found to be like those of Whitney Houston, the protégé of Clive Davis, the boss of Arista, who little by little borrowed the most mechanical and purified forms of R & # 39; n. & # 39; B, this modern avatar of rhythm & nb; It remains a model for generations of singers, including candidates for reality television academies, who often try to imitate his flights by forcing their tone when Aretha's art was based on mastering his abilities. of course. But even in the most mediocre moments of his career, his voice could not betray his origins. Under the flashing varnish of the production we still heard in a flash the violence of the blues and the hope for the gospel.
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Aretha Franklin in 8 dates
25 March 1942 Born in Memphis, Tennessee
1956 First recordings in Detroit, Michigan
1966 Leave the house Records Columbia for Atlantic
1967 Respect is number 1 in pop and rhythm & # 39; blues ratings
1972 Back to gospel with album Amazing Grace
1984 Death of his father, Reverend Clarence LaVaughn Franklin
2009 Star of the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama
2018 Died on 76