Aretha Franklin – The Queen of Soul Was Rock Steady from Start to Finish


Tribute to an Icon Who Made us Groove

Most of us can remember where we were when certain major news stories hit the airwaves. It could be the day of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, the passing of Michael Jackson or Prince. These events leave us thinking about what our loved ones or music icons mean to our everyday experiences.

Then of course there’s the news of the passing of Aretha Franklin. She became known as the Queen of Soul for her musical prowess that started at a young age. But it’s not only remembering where we were when that news first broke. It’s also about how Ms. Franklin made us feel in our coming and going.

Long before Video Music Awards were a thing, Franklin was a chart-topper on the Billboard scene. She became the youngest inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She’s also the most decorated female Grammy winner of all time. That’s another way for saying Franklin was ‘rock steady’ from start to finish.

As the tributes pour in from past Presidents & showbiz figures, we remember Franklin as a person whose music through soul went beyond the mold. Her work was not limited to one genre of music. Franklin made hits across pop, gospel, R&B, jazz and even a little country. If for nothing else her music had S.A.S.S.

Ms. Franklin didn’t get lost in the diva-girl persona that seems to cloud some artists. Her music was usually built around a Storyline. In some cases it became Anthemic. It had a Soundtrack quality to the groove. But it also had Swizzle by delivering ‘soul with sizzle.’ That‘s the Aretha many came to love.

Recording artists, music industry pioneers and fans might not all agree on whether Michael Jackson was more talented than Prince. But they’ll likely agree that Franklin was in a class of her own. She left us with memories from her music that’ll be around for a long time. She also left us some takeaways from her life.

When it comes to the intersection of American history and pop culture Ms. Franklin might also want us to:

  1. Raise our voice in local as well as high places.
  2. Raise our value in a career game and other spaces.
  3. Raise our volume of impact that leaves a legacy for the ages.


Franklin had the chance at an early age to develop her singing voice at her father’s Church. After honing her chops there she went on to become a hit-maker and crowd-pleaser. She even had the chance to sing at the Inauguration of President Barack Obama wearing that fancy hat which is now at the Smithsonian.

When you look at her music you find the evolution of a career across three record companies. Columbia Records introduced us to her voice as sales weren’t quite through the roof just yet. Then Atlantic Records took us through mid-career as she became a household name. And still the hits kept coming.

Then there’s the partnership with Arista Records which brought a more hip sound to her music. This is probably the period for which her work speaks volumes. More people both young and old came to fully appreciate her longevity in the music biz. Her Kennedy Center Honors in 2015 was like icing on the cake.

Many remember that moving performance of Natural Woman that had the audience drooling at her feet. Even The Obamas were on a Franklin high. So the jury might be out on whether the favorite female artist these days is Cardi B or Nicki Minaj. But there’s no mistaking that Ms. Aretha Franklin was Soul Sister #1.

Tracks: Jennifer Hudson – I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) –

Fantasia – Aretha Franklin Tribute –


Pharrell Williams & Showbiz Stars Team-up with Media/Social Groups as Game-Changers


Trivia: Who’s been named 2015 People Magazine’s sexiest man alive? (Answer below)

College campuses are ripe with concern and activism over racial issues. From Missouri to D.C. the students are ready to move the needle and shake things up. Something’s also happening in Hollywood. It’s why Pharrell Williams and showbiz stars teamed-up with media & social groups as game-changers.

They’ve kicked-off “Shining a Light’ for progress on race in America. According to Rob Sharenow, executive VP/GM of A&E and Lifetime, telling Billboard Magazine “Race is not an easy thing to talk and sing about. I don’t think anyone has ever attempted to put together something quite on this scale.”

The event was first envisioned as a response to the June tragedy at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s part concert and part hometown conversation for a national audience. The organizers hope that it represents a forum for replacing hate with love, fear with hope and pain with purpose.

It might also be a catalyst for seeing if communities can get down with O-P-P. For everyday folks to benefit from the concert and ongoing conversation there has to be process for social transformation. That’s something Dr. King scholars might advocate using the footnotes from his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

The O-P-P process should include opportunities to motivate systematic social change. It should engage the notion that ‘purposeful lives matter.’ In addition, it should have plans to forge new levels in race relations, social-media engagement and talent development/exposure long after the event is over.

What does that process look like? Think back to wireless companies making the shift from ‘flip phones to smart phones.’ Or when Tech companies went from DOS to IOS? We need a version of ‘Urban Change Now 1.0’ as a social change structure that coordinates shifts & upgrades in the larger system framework.

Techies say to social innovators that a concert or conversation without culture evolution is just temporary as a passing fancy. They’re like social patch-solutions to what’s really needed. The challenge is to not only have new choices in accessories. There needs to be changes in the core structure of the main fabric.

Some of the other partners/performers include iHeartMedia and Jamie Foxx. Nancy Dubuc, President & CEO of A&E Networks tells Deadline “By shining a light on the uncomfortable truth that racial inequity and bias still impact our society, we are looking to inspire people to go beyond short-lived, symbolic gestures.”

Answer: David Beckham

Groove-tracks: Little Mix – “Change Your Life” –

Pharrell Williams  – “Gust of Wind” –