What Aretha Means to Me - Ameilia Feathers
Aretha's biography, "Aretha: From These Roots" will be in book stores this month and I am anxiously awaiting to read the book. I'd like to share with my fellow SPer's something I wrote for my publication about Aretha, the woman I am a writer (because I can't sing the way she sings, so I try to write the way she writes) and the woman I admire. I know this is long, but bear with me. I feel a need to share

When I was about eight or nine years old I heard a voice that literally made me tear the teen idol posters of David Cassidy, Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson off my wall.

I had heard the voice before but this time I listened and the power in the tone was similar to a powerful mirror reflecting my inner emotions and feelings, some I didn't even know existed. I didn't understand what I was feeling, but I did know I had to know that voice more intimately, because I believed the voice was like the old saying, "coming straight from God's mouth to my ears." The old saying is the best way I can describe what I hear in the music of Aretha Franklin.

Franklin is known as The Queen of Soul, Lady Soul or the First Lady of Soul, but for me, I just call her Aretha as though she is a best friend, because her music is a good friend.

I don't idolize Aretha or wish I was she, but maybe I'm a jealous of the freedom she possesses when she sings. The freedom Aretha has to sing about her pain and joy through recordings or live performances is to pour out blood, sweat and tears in an emotional nakedness in front of the universe without any fear. Aretha is saying to world when she sings what I want to say when I write, "Here I am, and all I am asking from you is just give me a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T." The day I tore those posters off of my bedroom wall I was emancipated and though I was shy and sometimes even lonely still, I had my baggage packed to begin a journey toward myself. The voice helped me build a fire deep in my soul so I could travel on a spiritual journey.

For me Aretha's voice is the sun among the stars. Her voice is like a cup of warm tea late at night or early in the morning; a smile from a stranger; a hand in hand walk in the moonlight; a dandelion on a windy day; candlelight during a thunderstorm; a bubble bath; streaks of lightning before rain; whispers between friends and a book of poetry.

Aretha's music was so influential in my life I decided to become a writer so I could be a bridge over troubled waters and try and live a "Wholy Holy" life. I began to learn not to be a link in the "Chain of Fools" by searching for a "Dr. Feelgood," and cured myself of "daydreaming" about a knight in shining armor coming to save me from myself. I decided to be "a natural woman" and quit depending on others to "save me" from my personal demons.

When I declared my independence I had Aretha's songs as my personal anthems. Though the hard work and determination led me to more hard work, I finally learned to believe in myself and with the help of God first and my soul fire and Aretha's voice I made it through some rocky times. But in 1994 just when I thought I was on the right path to spirituality, I discovered life is not always fair and the winding road I had mapped out had some detours. I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 1994 and just when I was retreating from the world, a few months later my mother died suddenly in her sleep. The personal demons returned to my life and brought friends. Times before I thought I had reached bottom, but I learned in 1994 bottom has a trick door to a dungeon and I slipped into the darkness where there was no spirit.
I was shouting save me but I thought nobody not even God could hear me.

But I had forgotten to listen to myself and the voices of God and Aretha. The voice that helped to save me before was still there but I had become deaf without a dream. Slowly and unsteadily I heard something, the voice was became clear again, different but stronger and I began to dust my dreams off and then remembered I had to reach back like Aretha and let go to find a deeper love.

During that time I was a single mother of two on welfare because I had given up. After crying in my beer and drowning in my own tears for so long I finally decided God still loved me and the voice was still there. I worked my way off of welfare and quit daydreaming about being a writer and became a writer.

In 1996 I was hired full time as a reporter for a newspaper and I underwent chemotherapy treatments, not only did the cancer go into remission but so did my personal demons. And as the demons faded I began to bury them in the past. Two years ago because of personal columns I wrote about Aretha and how she helped "get me through" much bad times, including those awful chemotherapy treatments. A co-worker sent those writing to Aretha's record company and the company sponsored a trip for my oldest daughter and I to fly to New York to see Aretha in a gospel concert at the Lincoln Center and to meet her backstage.

When I walked backstage after Aretha's gospel concert I felt like a fan, because I started thinking I wanted to get a picture with her and get an autograph. In my fan mode I did sneak a Q-tip with her makeup on it from a table where she was sitting. But before I started acting like a deranged fan I remembered the posters I tore off my wall and how I was transformed from girl to woman with the help of the voice. I was carrying six yellow roses to present to the Queen of Soul. Her publicist had told me yellow roses were Aretha's favorite flowers. After I was introduced to Aretha, I handed her the six yellow roses, which for me represented the state of Texas and her golden voice. I gave her the flowers and as she cradled the bouquet, I said to her, "These flowers are just a small way to say thank you for all of the music you have given to me through the years."

The meeting with Aretha wasn't the end of a dream as I wrote later in a journal. That moment for me was the beginning of new dreams. I described the moment back then this way: "I believed there was no need for more words or actions because I finally was able to give Aretha something back and I knew at that moment unspoken words could become screams of insight."

My unspoken words were my voice and Aretha listened to me and when we shook hands that night we fused our voices in soul-saving harmony.

Amelia Feathers, the other A.F.

I recently found out that the one and only "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin will have her memoirs out in January 1998. The book is co written with David Ritz, who has co written books with Ray Charles, Etta James, and Marvin Gaye. In a recent interview David Ritz said that she was openingup about a lot of subjects and it is a fascinating story.
Aretha said that her book will be part educational and some "Deep dish Aretha". The book was also written on two conditions specified by Aretha on what she wouldn't write about. After reading Patti's "Don't Block the Blessings" I'm hoping that this one will be as interesting and inspirational as that one was. P.S. What is the title you may ask, well it's


Can it get any better?

  • "You better think..think...think about what your tryin to do to me..yeahhhhh..think..think..."...Thanks for the info... As a big fan of Aretha's from way back..This book sounds like it may be very good reading. ..Have you any idea what those 2 "conditions" were??

    "Rock Steady Baby, That's How I feel Now."

  • I don't know what the Queens Conditions were for the book, but I know that there were various subjects that interviewers were not allowed to ask her."
    1)Who was the father of her first child?
    2)Her relationship with her mother.
    3)Why her second husband and her divorced?
    It will be interesting to see how much Re revels in the book, because she is notoriously private. Issues such as her feud with Natalie Cole in the 70's, Her Problems with the IRS, and various stories about her father. Maybe she'll talk about these issues and other stuff about her life. I've been a fan of the queen since the early 80's (I was 7 when Jump to It came out.) and have been waiting to see whether she would go through it or not. I also heard she was paid over a million dollars for her life story. I saw her last year at Carnegie Hall and it was unforgettable. If you haven't seen her, DO IT! I want to know about your favorate songs and albums. Let me know.

  • David Ritz also wrote a great book about Smokey. In that book there are many references to Aretha Franklin. Apparently she & Smokey were childhood friends and remain close to this day. I also read the one he did on Marvin....he has done a great job of documenting the recent history of Black music !!!

    Aretha is one of those artists that I really only bought the 45's of. I have never owned an Aretha Franklin album except one which was her first one. The name of it escapes me at the moment, but she recorded it for Columbia in the early 60's and it's pretty much just her & her piano in a "jazz mode".
    This was before her hit making years later at Atlantic. Is anyone else familiar with this album ???
    I have it on tape here someplace & I'll try to dig it up.....and post the title. It's "young Aretha" at her best, masterful on piano & soulful in voice !!!

    Hmmm..my favorites by her..lets see....lol

    1. Think.....
    2. Mary Dont You Weep...
    3. Respect
    4. Chain of fools....
    I could go on and on..really all her early stuff I really am into..and I love her gospel albums...and Yours ??

    I am not familiar with this particualr one..but if you locate it..please give me some info here....

  • Let's see which of the Queens songs do I love. I love them all. But these are some of my particular favorites

    1)Until You Come Back To Me
    2)Oh Me Oh My (I'm a Fool FoR You Baby
    3)Rock Steady
    5)Chain of Fools
    6)Love All the Hurt Away
    7)Amazing Grace
    8)Jump to It
    9)Without Love
    10)Hurts Like Hell

  • There are so many to name! As For albums.. That's easy

    1)Amazing Grace
    2)I Never Loves A man the Way I loved You
    4)Love All the Hurt Away
    5)Live at the Filmore West
    Aretha is one of those artist that I enjoy all her songs. There's isn't one that I don't like. She recently did a Godspell benefit at Avery Fisher hall. Imagine the electricity for that event. WHEW!!
    Aretha is a DIVA 10 timesover. Long Live the Queen!!!
    P.S. When I saw her last year at Carniage Hall, I yelled "Long Live the Queen!" She said "Thank You" I was on Cloud Nine. If you haven't seen her live. Do it. When She sang Ain't No Way
    (Another favorate) She blew me and the rest of the house down.

  • Here is a list of Aretha's jazz at Columbia. Maybe this can help you.

    Aretha (With the Ray Bryant Combo)-1960
    The Electrifying Aretha Franklin-1962
    The Tender, The Moving, The Swinging Aretha Franklin-1962
    Unforgettable-A Tribute To Dinah Washington-1964
    Yeah!!!/In Person-1965
    Runnin Out of Fools-1964
    Soul Sister-1964
    Take It Like You Give It-1964

    I know Unforgettable and Yeah are reissued on CD. Let me know how you do. The years are the recording dates.

  • Wow how could I have left out some of those ??? lol
    another one..."Daydreamin and Iím thinkin of you"..... "Hey baby lets get away ..lets go somewhere".....

    How about this one....
    "All the Kings Horses, All the Kings Men.. Couldn't put our two hearts together again."

  • Hmmmmmmm ........"There is a Rose in Spanish Harlem"
    Do you know if there are plans in the near future for a new lp ??

    "Without Love There's nothing you can do, Without Love you're not even you."

  • At one time there was supposed to be a Live album with her 1993 Carniage Hall concert, but she couldn't get clearance on some of the Atlantic songs she recorded. So the album fell through.
    There was also supposed to be a re-release of One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism around March but it never came through. I believe there is supposed to be a new LP at the end of the year, probably to coincide with the release of her book. Hopefully it will be out soon, because its been over six years since Re released a new LP. I hope we'll hear something soon.

    "I'm gonna rap on your door ......Tap on your window, Baby"

    "Until you come back to me thats what Im gonna do..." That was another good one. .really I cant think of any of her songs that I dont like !! Im gonna be keepin an eye out to see if there will be a new lp.. hopefully there will be one. I wonder if It will be gospel or new upbeat or if she will go back to her old style.? It will be interesting to see...

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