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Queen of soul Ms. Franklin deserved respect from the world

August 20, 2018

They say if you were introduced to Aretha Franklin, you shouldn’t call her “Aretha.”

“Don’t call me by my first name,” she’d say, “unless you are my good friend. Call me Ms. Franklin. I want and expect respect.” If I had ever met her, I wouldn’t have been able to open my mouth. I held her in highest esteem, still do.

Even though her body died last week, her soul lives on.

Ms. Franklin was the queen of soul. The music that came from her soul stuck like glue to me from the first time I heard her in the 1960s when I was siting with a group of African-American friends in an apartment across the street from Old Main.

My friends had already learned there was something special about her and it didn’t take me long to feel the same way.

Black folk friends of mine realized she came straight out of the black gospel culture since everything she sang smacked of the African-American Baptist tradition.

Early on I didn’t know much about her. All I knew was that she was special. Little did I know that 50 years later I would be telling her story and giving her a eulogy that can’t match what she did for America and me.

Respect.

Was there ever a word and the song of the same name that meant so much to my African-American friends who marched in Huntington to integrate the town?

The song had a double meaning. Ms. Franklin wanted listeners to know that she wanted respect from her man but mostly wanted respect — r-e-s-p-e-c-t — as a human being who deserved respect from the world.

There’s no doubt she was at the forefront of the civil rights movement, though she denied it. She sang at appearances with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She was involved with the March on Washington. She gave money — perhaps millions — to get marchers out of jail.

All this was her way of showing respect.

Some say she was a diva. So be it. She had every right to be, She had every right to be called Ms. Franklin. When you are an icon, why not? When you want respect, why not let the world know what you want?

From the time last week when I first heard she was dying, Alexa and I played her music for hours.

“Alexa, play ‘Respect’ by Aretha Franklin.”

“Alexa, play ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman,’ by Aretha Franklin.”

“Alexa, play ‘Oh Happy Day’ by Aretha Franklin and Mavis Staples.”

(Ms. Staples is another heroine of mine.)

Other times I’d just say “Alexa, play Aretha Franklin,” and let Alexa shuffle her myriad songs and play them in rotation.

I heard songs from Ms. Franklin I’d never heard before. I heard others I hadn’t heard in nearly 50 years. They all added to her legend. She was bigger than life before last week. Now she’s even bigger.

I must admit I posted on Facebook asking President Trump not to issue one of his perfunctory “So sorry to hear about the death of ...” since it’s my opinion Trump has no clue about the meaning of “Respect.”

A friend added he doesn’t believe the president knows the meaning of “soul.”

The president didn’t heed my advice. He issued a curt tweet memorializing Ms. Franklin.

I expected it.

Dave Peyton is on Facebook. His email address is davepeyton@comcast.net.

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