The Legendary Aretha and her Movement of "RESPECT"
Death is just a natural part of the life cycle. But with someone as impactful as Aretha Franklin, the news of her death is almost impossible to believe. It’s an unbelievable idea that someone so powerful and legendary is gone from our world, never to grace the stage again.
We tend to think of these icons as invincible; we tend to forget that they are just like us.
The death of Aretha Franklin shocked the world. But there is no denying how the Queen of Soul paved the way for women today. Franklin’s powerhouse, sultry vocals changed music forever, while speaking volumes within the empowerment of women. Her feminist anthem “Respect” demanded truth, demanded respect for all women.
Let us remember, this was a time when initiatives for women’s rights were gaining momentum on a global scale during the 1960s. “Respect” was that focal point that brought awareness and root to the issue. Franklin demanded that all women receive what they had been denied for so long, and rightfully deserved.
To give some background, “Respect” was originally written and recorded by Otis Redding; and knowing that makes Franklin’s message of empowerment even more defining.
Even though it was actually Otis Redding who first released the song in 1965, it’s Franklin’s portrayal of a strong, self-assured woman in her version that cemented the song as the timeless classic that it is today. Her reinterpretation of the original song was not only transformative but evolutionary as well.
When Franklin’s version of “Respect” was released in April 1967, it soared to number one on the charts for two weeks and stayed on the charts for twelve weeks. It became her first of 22 R&B singles to reach number one.
Producer Jerry Wexler said in a Rolling Stone interview that Franklin's song was "global in its influence, with overtones of the civil rights movement and gender equality. It was an appeal for dignity." And he wasn’t wrong. Its significance and its power has shaped the feminist movement. Not only reflecting the battle cries of the civil rights movement, its relevance has also been monumental within past, present, and future decades.
When Franklin was asked by the Detroit Free Press if the song was bold for its time: “I don’t think it’s bold at all. I think it’s quite natural that we all want respect – and should get it.” Equal rights, equal gender, and freedom. And it will be preached until the end of time.
Rest in peace, legendary Aretha.