I can’t tell y’all how heavy my heart is about the passing of music legend Aretha Franklin last week. It was made worse by that so-called homage to the Queen of Soul by Madonna, a.k.a. the Queen of Making The Absolute Most of What You’ve Got, at Monday night’s MTV Awards. But I don’t want to give that any more attention. Franklin’s music will live forever as part of essential listening that serves as the soundtrack of the black American experience and connects with people of all races from around the world. She rightfully gets props as the Queen of Soul. However, one of the other reasons I loved Aretha so much was for a talent that she never got enough credit for – and that is as The Queen of Shade. Now, before y’all accuse me of not giving her R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (or however Rev. Al Sharpton spelled it the other night on his show … I’m blaming it on bereavement), I feel in my soul that she would want me to give her all her proper for being able to read folks for filth. Of the many gems where she got folks together, my favorite was an unprovoked read – when an interviewer asked Ms. Franklin her thoughts on some of the current roster of female music stars.
Reporter: Since your latest album is about divas, I want to just throw out a few names of divas and get your one-word reaction and impression of various singers. When I say the name Adele, what comes to mind?
Aretha Franklin: Mmmm, hmmm … young singer, good singer.
Reporter: Alicia Keys.
Aretha Franklin: Ummm … young performer, good writer, producer.
Reporter: Taylor Swift.
Aretha Franklin: Okay … great gowns, beautiful gowns.
She will be missed, and while I know I will never be able sing like her, my hope is that I can at least get into her stratosphere as far as shading folks for dear life. In all seriousness, we will never have another like the queen – and I’m glad to have lived to see her impact and ability to influence all genres of music over several generations.