Resources for Teachers and Students
FOR THE WEEK OF AUG. 20, 2018
Tributes to legendary singer Aretha Franklin praise the cultural impact of her half-century career
Read fresh news or commentary about Franklin. What do you learn?
Now see if you spot a current pop music performer at the paper's site. Are you a fan?
Look for coverage of an influential writer, filmmaker, painter, designer or other artist. Why is she or he in the news?
A celebrity death last week is reported with grand language that fits someone whose nickname starts with a royal title. "Aretha Franklin, universally acclaimed as the 'Queen of Soul' and one of America's greatest singers in any style, died on Thursday at her home in Detroit," begins The New York Times' main article on the loss of a legend. The 76-year-old Detroiter, whose career in pop, soul and rhythm and blues spanned 50 years, was the first woman in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She had more than 100 hit singles, sang at Barack Obama's first presidential inauguration in 2009 and also at Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral in 1968. Rolling Stone magazine put Franklin atop its 2010 list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time." In 2005, President George W. Bush gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. "We're never going to have an artist with a career as long, absurdly bountiful, nourishing and constantly surprising as hers," commentator Wesley Morris writes in The Times.
Her best-known song, "Respect," is a bluesy demand for dignity that Franklin spells out letter by letter. It became a civil rights and feminist anthem of the late 1960s and remained her signature hit. The 1967 release soared to No. 1 and earned two Grammys – her first of 18 such industry awards. "It was a demand for equality and freedom and a harbinger of feminism, carried by a voice that would accept nothing less," Times music critic Jon Pareles writes. Morris, calls it "the most empowering popular recording ever made."
Her impact reached beyond records, concerts and screen performances. Franklin performed at civil rights fund-raisers for Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s and donated to the cause. "When Dr. King was alive, several times she helped us make payroll," says Jesse Jackson, another movement leader and her friend of more than 60 years. "Aretha has always been a very socially conscious artist - an inspiration, not just an entertainer." That's partly why tributes flow from political figures – including Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton – as well as entertainment colleagues and countless fans. Her Aug. 31 funeral next week in Detroit is sure to be filled with dignitaries.
President says: "She's brought joy to millions of lives and her extraordinary legacy will thrive and inspire many generations to come. She was given a great gift from God – her voice, and she used it well." – Donald Trump
Columnist says: "She was one of the most important musicians of our time. . . . She was a towering, once-in-a-generation vocal artist." – Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post
Singer says: "The greatest singer and musician of my lifetime. The power of your voice in music and in civil rights blew open the door for me and so many others." – Mariah Carey, in tweet
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