Earlier this month, we lost the Queen of Soul. Aretha Franklin has joined a heavenly choir, yet her inspiring music will live on for generations to come. As Mary J. Blige pays tribute, she says, “Aretha is a gift from God. When it comes to expressing yourself through song, there is no one who can touch her. She is the reason why women want to sing.”
Like many singers, Aretha had her roots in gospel, and it was the music she grew up with in the Baptist churches where her father, the Reverend Clarence LaVaughn Franklin, preached that propelled her to become the star soloist at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit and later to sing for presidents and massive audiences.
One of her most memorable and influential songs was “Respect,” and the song resonated beyond individual relationships to the civil rights and feminist movements. “It was the need of the nation, the need of the average man and woman in the street, the businessman, the mother, the fireman, the teacher---everyone wanted respect,” Aretha wrote in her autobiography.
Our nation continues to be in need of respect. Our neighborhoods continue to be in need of respect. Our schools continue to be in need of respect. Our churches continue to be in need of respect. We are in dire need of civility toward one another. Human beings deserve respect no matter what their differences of opinion.
Aretha belted out the need for respect, and perhaps we remain far too silent when we see others disrespected, demeaned or bullied. Perhaps we contribute to a culture of disrespect when we walk away from verbal, psychological or physical brutality and pretend that nothing has happened. Perhaps our voices need to join Aretha’s, refusing to normalize disrespect, vitriol and bullying. Perhaps God put this message into Aretha’s voice as a sermon to us all.
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Romans 12:9-11
Good bye for now, Aretha. Thank you, Sister, for sharing your gift from God.