The Epic Send Off

Aretha Franklin circa 1960s
Almost three weeks ago our Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin made her transition at the age of 76. I wanted to speak about this sooner but I must admit I was not ready to even acknowledge this. Last Friday Aretha's family, friends, and fans from around the world celebrated her life and legacy at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan. This was a star studded event featuring Smokey Robinson, Ronald Isley, The Clark Sisters, Chaka Khan, Yolanda Adams, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Reverend Jessie Jackson, Judge Mathis, and many others. Unfortunately I was at work and missed most of the funeral coverage  but thank goodness for the internet and DVR. I was able to catch up on the coverage the next day. I admit I did see many things I did not like but despite those things I enjoyed the ceremony. I know many people have complained about the funeral lasting so long. Please keep in mind Aretha and her family wanted this moment to be a monumental celebration of her life and music. Aretha planned the funeral this way and I believe she deserved to have all the bells and whistles. It was also great to see the city of Detroit celebrate her all week. I also respect the fact that her family was willing to share this moment and Aretha with us for so many years.
Aretha Franklin 1973 Press Conference 

Even though I was born in the early 1990s I felt a connection to Aretha Franklin. My grandparents and parents played her music around at the house and at family events. My favorite Aretha Franklin songs are "Daydreaming," "Ain't No Way," "Do Right Woman," '"Freeway of Love" and "Natural Woman."  That is the beauty of Aretha's impact she transcended generations. As I grew older I learned that Aretha Franklin was passionate about the empowerment of her fellow Black Americans. This made me appreciate her more. Aretha Franklin bailed Angela Davis out of jail, supported Muhammad Ali's protest, and provided financial support to many other black activist and their causes. I understand that Aretha cared the well being of all people but it is important to emphasize that she was proud to be Black. In fact she was an unapologetic Black woman.  Even in the 21st century Aretha remained passionate about issues that affected the Black Community. The Flint Water crisis devastated  Black families and Aretha wanted to confront Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. Aretha spoke to her close friend Judge Greg Mathis about the matter. He made reference to their conversation at her funeral service and I am glad he did. She also never compromised who she was to appease her mainstream audience. As we watched her evolution she did everything her way.
Minister Louis Farrakhan, Reverend Al Sharpton, Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. , and Former President Bill Clinton

As I said before I saw a few things I did not appreciate seeing at her funeral service from Friday. I will go down the list quickly. While I can appreciate and respect musical traditions of the Black American experience I did not appreciate the pastor allowing a "Praise Break Dance." That part of service resembled a plantation jubilee. I also noticed that Minister Louis Farrakhan was not given the chance to speak at the ceremony. He and Aretha have been friends for many years and he should have been allowed to say some words to honor her. Professor, Minister, and Author Michael Eric Dyson delivered a fiery eulogy but his speech started go off on political tangents making references to President Donald Trump. While I understand Aretha Franklin was passionate about politics. I do not believe this was the right time to focus on condemning the current President and his administration. This event was not about Donald Trump so Mr. Dyson should have focused on Aretha. He did make references to Aretha and her greatness but that tangent was unnecessary.

Reverend Japser Williams

Another thing I did not like about the service was eulogy from Reverend Jasper Williams. Jasper Williams is a longtime of Aretha's family and delivered the eulogy at her father's funeral in 1984. I believe the beginning of his sermon made sense and sounded well but he went off foolish tangents. When Jasper Williams asserted that the Black American community sold its soul to racial integration at the expense of its own institutions I agreed with him. Additionally, Jasper Williams asserted that the decline of  the two parent household structure has been a detriment to our community I agreed. He also stated that a woman is not capable of raising a boy into a man. I know that stuck a nerve with many single mothers. Some people said that was a contradiction because Aretha Franklin was a single parent. I disagree with that because she was married twice so that suggests that she did not initially plan on being a single parent.Yet, Aretha was able to adjust to her circumstances and live a full life. Jasper Williams began saying "Black  on Black" crime has not been condemned by the Black community. That is not true and serves as a scapegoat when innocent Black Americans are victims of racial crimes. Jasper Williams began to look and sound as if he was waiving his fingers at millennials such as myself. I do believe that degenerate behavior needs to addressed but the remainder of Jasper's eulogy was bogus. He simply should have focused on celebrating Aretha and providing comfort to her family. He began to sound like an old coon rambling he put on a real Sambo uniform.

I know many people will disagree with me on this but I do not care. We do not have to agree with everything. Ariana Grande was invited to sing at the funeral service. I do not believe her dress was appropriate for the occasion. It was cute and more fitting for a cocktail party. Many people asserted that Bishop Charles Ellis III inappropriately touched the young singer following her rendition of Aretha's classic "Natural Woman." Based on what I saw he was hugging her and tried to be welcoming. Many people say that  he was too close and touched her breast. I disagree because I do not believe it is right to project assumptions onto people. It is both wrong and unfair to suggest that Bishop Charles Ellis's intent was to violate Ariana. Don't get me wrong sexual harassment, sexual assault, etc. is deplorable but this whole thing has been blown out of proportion. Bishop Charles Ellis has apologized since the incident and stated he did not intend cause harm or make anyone feel uncomfortable. Despite these sensationalized moments it was still great to see Aretha's family and friends celebrate her life through beautiful tributes. For the record Cecily Tyson was reciting a Paul Laurence Dunbar poem entitled "When Malindy Sings" and remixed it by saying "When Aretha Sings." Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote the poem dialect and expressed his love for Southern African Classic Vernacular. This the language of Black Americans and Aretha sang in that vernacular.

I have stopped attending church many years ago but I must admit I did enjoy hearing Fantasia,  Chaka Khan, etc. sing for Aretha and her family. Chaka Khan's performance was slightly comical because she has the lyrics to "Going Up Yonder" on her fan and it was evident was reading the lyrics while singing. Although Chaka Khan was able to find her groove and execute it with the choir. I am going to post links enjoy.  It is also important to remember that the Black Church does have flaws but it has produced our greatest singers  Aretha is one of them. Aretha grew up singing gospel music and even recorded a gospel album in 1972. Rest in power Queen Mother Aretha Louise Franklin we love you.

Chaka Khan "Going Up Yonder"

Bishop Paul Morton and Yolanda Adams "Mary Don't You Weep"

The Clark Sisters  "Is My Living In Vain?"

Ron Isley " His Eye Is on the Sparrow"

Fantasia " Precious Lord"

Judge Greg Mathis

Smokey Robinson


Popular Posts