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COLUMN: Paying ‘Respects’ to Aretha Franklin


Aretha Franklin in concert at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles on Aug. 2, 2015. Franklin died Aug. 16. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

Aretha Franklin did her time — all 10,000 hours of it, to be exact. 

It’s clear Franklin was gifted. It’s also clear she worked hard to make her gift reach its full potential. 

According to the 10,000-hour rule created by Malcolm Gladwell, in order to reach peak performance at any given thing, one must put in 10,000 hours of work.

“Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, people like that, they illustrate well that these are people that when they entered the public consciousness, they had done their time, they had put in their 10,000 hours,” Jacobs School of Music Professor Andy Hollinden said.

Soul music is for anyone who has a soul — it creates a feeling, a smile, a light heart, snapping fingers, a bobbing head, two moving feet. 

You don’t have to be religious to listen to and enjoy soul music. Some people make that mistake, Hollinden said, and though Franklin began in a church, that’s not where the listener needs to be to appreciate her sound.

“I think an atheist could listen to her music and be moved in, for lack of a better term, a spiritual way, in a very human way,” Hollinden said.

It’s always difficult to see greatness go — Franklin's death Aug. 16 was no exception. However, her death isn’t a goodbye or the end of her legacy. 

Similar to artists such as David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, Franklin has created a type of feeling and influence with her music that listeners can’t get anywhere else.

“Anyone can listen to Aretha Franklin at any point in time, so she will never go away or vanish from the human consciousness,” Hollinden said. “Performers have learned from her, and can incorporate what she illustrated on an intuitive level.”

Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1942, meaning she was 76 years old when she died of pancreatic cancer. She began her journey with gospel music because of her father and was encouraged to perform in his church when her family moved to Detroit. In the late 1960s, she was recognized for her hits, “Chain of Fools,” “Think” and “I Say a Little Prayer.”

Franklin’s influence wasn’t only in her voice — it was also in her actions. She was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and by 1970 she had five Grammys. She earned a total of 44 nominations and 18 statues. In 1991, Franklin received the Grammy Legend Award, and in 1994, she won the Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Additionally, she performed at President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration and the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors during a tribute to Carole King — the latter of which moved Obama to tears. 

Franklin might be gone from the physical realm, but the inspiration she leaves behind — for women, for musicians, for anyone with a soul — will stay forever. 

Listen to this playlist, full of Aretha Franklin and other soul artists.

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