As a young black girl growing up, one of the most crucial things to know is that you deserve respect. Aretha Franklin made sure that you understood the many important things that came with along with being a woman, especially as a black woman.
The first Aretha Franklin song I heard was "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." As many people have, I quickly fell in love with her voice. I was a young girl swinging around to her music, appreciating her voice, but not fully understanding the words.
As I grew older, I began to gain a deeper understanding of those words that I had heard many times before. Each one of her songs was a guide into the woman that I would become. The songs I had grown up listening to would become the soundtrack across my life. I was beginning to experience life and Aretha's songs were here to guide me along the way. They either provided solace in bad times or added happiness to a great day.
The most important thing was that the songs were warnings about life and all the things that would be faced.
Even at a young age, Aretha had a deep understanding of life. You could hear it in the power in which she sang every song. If there's one thing I could relate to, it was the feeling of being an "old soul."
When she sang things like, "many say I'm too young," it formed a connection with my own feelings. It instilled a confidence that even if you were young, you could know what you want.
All the while, she was still a young person on the journey to finding herself. I remember watching an interview with Franklin (in her 20s), speak about still figuring herself out, even though she already achieved many things. It's a thing that provides a good feeling to a 22-year-old writer, as I still strive to figure things out for myself.
Everything that she embodied was a lesson on being a woman. The most obvious lesson that comes to mind is respect. Despite her accomplishments, she always remained humble, while being a queen. She still took others advice, while also remaining true to herself. It was these things that made her a successful woman. This is a pivotal thing to remember as someone who is just starting out in their career.
Although many identified her by it, there was much more to Aretha Franklin than her voice.
The character and spirit in which she projected was the thing that made people love and admire her. Her sense of fashion was one that an accomplishment of its own. It was known that she always for her money before a performance and carried in her purse.
Her willingness to do as she wanted and get what she wanted was a lesson. It was the reminder to never be afraid to ask for what you want. It was also the thing that reminded you to be yourself and the rest will follow.
As a civil rights activist, Franklin also reminded us to stand up for what was right. Throughout her life, she always gave back to her community. During the ongoing Flint, Michigan water crisis, she provided water to the citizens being affected.
In the meanwhile, her songs became a guiding point in relationships, whether they were romantic or platonic. If you suddenly found yourself making bad decisions, you could hear "Think" begin to play in your head. If you were lost, she made sure you understood that there was help in prayer (and others if you were willing to ask for help).
If you ever forgot any of these lessons, her songs were always there to remind you and put you back on the right track.
The thing is that even though Aretha sang about someone making "you feel like a natural woman", it was her songs and voice that brought me into womanhood. The songs taught me what it was like to be a woman.
When my soul was in the lost and found, Aretha's songs came along and claimed it. I didn't have romantic love, yet hearing her voice reminded me that someday I would. Franklin served as an inspiration in my life and others on a variety of levels. Either as an artist or just as a woman, she reminded us that we could achieve anything.
The beautiful part about music is that it's here forever. Even though Aretha is gone, her music and its impact will live on for generations. It's her beautiful (and powerful) songs that we will pass on to our daughters, sisters, friends, and any women that we know.
Of course, it's not only women that need to hear these songs, but men as well. The songs were reminders of how women should be treated and the treatment that is expected. Aretha's songs about relationships let us know that you didn't have to settle. Every one of them was a solid reminder that you deserved the best and that overall you deserved unconditional love from your partner. Once again, as a young person, hearing these things at a young age was essential. They would be the things that stuck with you and became the foundation as you began to enter the age of dating and relationships.
At the end of the day, the songs heralded meanings that spoke to all of us, some more than others. When talking about "R-E-S-P-E-C-T," Franklin spoke often about how we all deserve and want respect. We can honor her by doing our best to lift each other up and remaining on "let's be good to each other street."
If you've never taken the time to sit down and actually hear the lyrics, I suggest that you do. Close your eyes and listen to the power and emphasis Aretha's voice puts on every word. Listen to the instruments in the background. Take it all in. When you open your eyes, you will have heard it in a way you haven't before. It may be the thing that you needed.
Aretha Franklin performing "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" media.giphy.com
Franklin's voice is one that not only brings peace, but also joy and spunk. When you're down, it is the best form of medicine and she became your "Dr. Feelgood." The emotions of peace, joy, and spunk together are the best thing you could ask for and each one of Aretha's songs provided that feeling.
She'll always be right there, in our ear, reminding us about everything we need to know.
Thank you, Aretha, for being an influence on the strong woman that I became.
Thank you for reminding us that any age we can be the woman that we want to be.
You will stay in our hearts forever and we will love you.