I took a break for a bit. It seemed like the right thing to do. I focused my attention on what was going on in the world, participate in ways that I could, and also have some good hard thinks about what I can do better. Writing and music are my go-to’s. They’ve been that way for me for as long as I can remember. So, beyond the social justice things I’m doing outside of this space, I am going to do some things differently, and hopefully better, in this space. Today marks the start of a new project – an A To Z of black voices in music. I want to showcase, share, and support some of my favorites, along with some new discoveries, too. It isn’t a lot, but it is one of the things I want to do better.
But enough about me, let’s get to the music, and to the letter A.
A To Z of Black Voices In Music
The Letter A
My first memory of Aretha Franklin involves a garage, a box of 45’s, and dancing. During a 70’s summer in my neighborhood, a family moved in for a short time (if my memory is right, they were only there for the summer). They were from Costa Rica, and they had two daughters – one a year older than me, and one a year younger. This was huge. I’d spent years up until then being the only girl on the block and being that I was not into sports, and the boys on the block were all really into sports, I spent most of my time alone. The things I was into that 70’s summer – movies, books, Charlie’s Angels, and music.
I took a bit of courage to talk to these new girls. For about a week I’d ride my bike by their house – slowly – hoping that they’d notice me and come out and say hello. One day it worked. The older one came out to the end of her driveway and introduced herself. We talked awkwardly – me because I was very shy, and her because she was still trying out English. She asked me if I wanted to listen to music. That didn’t need any translating or small talk…and yes, I definitely wanted to listen to music.
In their garage, they had a stereo in the corner, the kind with the giant speakers. Next to it was a box of ’45s. That summer we made our way through them, playing them loudly, making up dances to the songs, and singing-a-long. One of the songs I remember most from that summer was “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. Oh my stars, how we loved that song.
“Respect” by Aretha Franklin
Find out what it means to me.
Take care, TCB.
Oh, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me.”
My next Aretha comes from car rides with my mom. One of my favorite memories of my childhood with my mom is of car rides together. We’d share a glass bottle of Coke (my mom would say we were “sharing friends”) and sing. Sometimes we made up songs. Other times, my mom would scan through the radio stations until she landed on a current favorite of hers. My mom loved “I Say A Little Prayer For You”. She loved it so much that not only would she always stop on it if it came on the radio, but she’d often sing it to herself, or with me, in the car. The lyric I loved as a kid was this one…
“The moment I wake up,
before I put on my makeup,
I say a little prayer for you.”
Something about it – singing those lines – made me feel grown-up.
Years later, around the time of my first car, I had a cassette of Aretha’s greatest hits that I wore out. It looked like this:
My favorite, at 19, from that cassette? “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman”.
“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin
“Looking out on the morning rain,
I used to feel so uninspired.
And when I knew I had to face another day,
Lord, it made me feel so tired.
Before the day I met you,
life was so unkind –
but you’re the key to my peace of mind.”
I was also really into her duet with George Michael. I mean, how could I not be?
“I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” by Aretha Franklin and George Michael
“When the river was deep,
I didn’t falter.
When the mountain was high,
I still believed.
When the valley was low,
it didn’t stop me, no no –
I knew you were waiting,
I knew you were waiting for me.”
Oh, and ALSO THIS DUET…I still love love love it so much!
“Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” by Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart (Eurythmics)
“Sisters are doin’ it for themselves.
Standin’ on their own two feet,
and ringin’ on their own bells.
Sisters are doin’ it for themselves.”
Lately, my go-to Aretha is her album I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You. I’d like to get this one on vinyl someday. I love it so much, and play it more than often.
Favorite song on it? I’m not sure I could pick just one. Lately it’s a tie between “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and “Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream”. That said, the title track is definitely in my Top 5 all-time favorite Aretha songs.
“Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream” by Aretha Franklin
“Help me hold onto this dream.
For sometimes dreams often come true,
and they all come true,
they all come true,
for me and you.”
Thank you for all the music, Aretha. I wish I’d gotten to see you in concert. The closest I came was seeing her come out to sing “I Knew You Were Waiting” with George Michael, back in the late ’80s. It was pretty spectacular, but I do so wish I’d gotten to see a whole concert of just her.
I’m still exploring Aretha’s albums and music, and I still turn up “Respect” loudly, sing-a-long, and dance to it – even sometimes in my garage.
I’d love to hear about your Aretha memories, favorite songs, and albums. If you feel like sharing, please leave a comment below. And while your here, click on the links below to listen to my favorite Aretha songs playlist. I hope you enjoy it, and yes, turn it up loud.
My Favorite Songs
“Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream”
“I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)”
“I Say a Little Prayer”
“Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)”
“Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”
“(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman”
“(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone”
“Chain Of Fools”
“I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”
“Freeway Of Love”
“Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves”
“Jumpin’ Jack Flash”
“A Change Is Gonna Come”
“Young, Gifted, and Black”
“You’re All I Need To Get By”
“Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)”
“Midnight Train To Georgia”
“Drown In My Own Tears”
“Something He Can Feel”
“Baby, I Love You”
“Don’t Play That Song”
“I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”
“Oh Me Oh My (I’m a Fool For You Baby)”
Aretha Franklin – My Favorite Songs