Tackling Aretha isn’t easy for this Xennial. Nearly a decade and a half removed from her ascent, she wasn’t always on my radar. I had Whitney in the Eighties. Toni, Mariah and Mary in the Nineties. I was familiar with the hits, but Aretha’s music didn’t “click” until my junior high school year. The song: her rendition of “Say A Little Prayer”. One of the few times I’d felt goosebumps while listening to a record. There was an instant connection. Soon after, there’d be several songs in Aretha’s catalogue that would put me in every solitary feel.
When I fell in love, I further understood. Nobody sang about love like Aretha. If you weren’t in love, she made you want the type of love she sang about. If you were experiencing heartbreak, her vocals nursed you through the pain. Made you feel like you’d not only recover, but triumph. Made the pain bearable. Hesitant to tag her a “feminist”, as she encompassed far more, but most indelible was her demand for balance and equality. “Do Right Woman-Do Right Man”, an all-time favorite, exemplified that. She mastered several genres, but epitomized soul. That’s what her voice and music stirred. You simply didn’t have a pulse if it didn’t.
The Queen’s transition left me contemplating legacy once again. The urgency of creating an impact. A Black woman witnessing Aretha’s legacy can’t help but be moved to action, no matter the scale. There will never be another Aretha. I’ll never need one. I’m content in cherishing her unique gift. Rejoicing in her legacy. One of love, freedom and victory. One I’m grateful to have witnessed. Unrivaled, she emoted in a fashion that resonated. I felt that grit, even though I hadn’t fully lived it. That’s the power her artistry wielded. It’s why she belongs to every generation. May the embers of her Fire energy burn for eternity and light the path for those who love her. I’ll bask in that light every time I lift a needle to one of her records. Job regally done.