Aretha Franklin, Forever and Always.


By Eish Sumra

Our generation probably doesn’t know much about Aretha Franklin. As if her 18 Grammy Awards, numerous number 1 hits or record setting singles haven’t had much impact. Make no mistake, they have. Every modern singer has a bit of Aretha inspiring them. In today’s world, from Beyonce to Adele, to Ariana and Sam Smith, we’ve seen countless efforts to replicate the bravado, the scale and the sheer force that Aretha brought in the 60’s and throughout her career. No one has come close to matching her. 

My connection with Aretha started as early as possible. When I was born, weeks prematurely, my parents would play “I Say A Little Prayer” in the hospital. It was instances like this that defined Aretha. She seemed to reach out to every human, not just through the power of her unbeatable voice, but through the sincerity and humanity of it. I grew up with the phrase “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” blasting in my car rides to school. I heard her inescapable track “Think” almost daily on the radio. She was a part of my upbringing, even decades after her commercial peak. But then again, her peak never really ended. Even her most recent release, a cover of “Rolling In The Deep,” brought critical acclaim Adele didn't even receive. 

That was Aretha’s influence - the ability to make you feel something regardless of what she was singing. She will go down as the greatest vocalist of all time. Even if someone manages to surpass the epic nature of her voice, no one will match her style, her grace and her ability to make you feel free. Aretha is now up in the stars, with many other greats. Those artists will probably be looking up at her too, wondering how lucky we were to witness a truly unique talent. One whose power spanned genres and generations, and will continue to do so forever. 

I’ll always be saying a little prayer for Aretha. She showed me my first love - music.

Eish Sumra