Her royal majesty
In case you’re among the very few people who haven’t already seen it, here is Aretha Franklin serenading the annual Kennedy Centre Honors ceremony in Washington DC earlier this month. She’s there to sing “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman” to Carole King, who wrote the song with her then-husband, the lyricist Gerry Goffin, in 1967.
King was one of five honorees (the others were George Lucas, Rita Moreno, Cicely Tyson and Seiji Ozawa). She was also serenaded by James Taylor with “Up on the Roof” and Janelle Monae with “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “One Fine Day”. But, as you can see, Aretha blew the roof off the place with a performance that works on more levels than I can count.
To see her once again accompanying herself at the piano is simply wonderful. I think it was the late Jerry Wexler, the producer of her Atlantic sessions, who observed that the relationship between Aretha’s voice and her piano-playing was the foundation of her great recordings (it was also Wexler who offered Goffin and King the phrase “natural woman” as an idea for a song). Just listen to the way she delays and phrases the second half of the line “When my soul was in the lost-and-found…” And when she stands up, drops her coat and lets rip, for a few seconds this 73-year-old woman is once again that prodigy, barely into her teens, who regularly brought the congregation at her father’s Baptist church in Detroit a little closer to heaven.
Try keeping a dry eye. Barack Obama couldn’t. He may have his faults, but he’ll be missed when he’s gone. This is one of the moments for which his presidency — and the reign of the Queen of Soul — will be remembered.