Get Well Soon, Our Queen


We all found out recently that Aretha Franklin was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and that has us all pretty scared and upset, but let’s not lose hope for her recovery, ‘cause everybody in the (Black) world is praying for Miss Aretha. Y’all know I am. She’s like a member of my family, and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. I just unabashedly love and adore me some Re-Re.

I was introduced by my mama to her music when I was five years old . I thought they were best friends, because my mama didn’t use a last name to refer to her. She was just “Aretha.” Enough said. The first song I remember hearing by her is “Chain of Fools.”

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I could read by then, but I was confused by the concept of people making a chain. Did they turn themselves into metal?  My mama tried to explain, but I still didn’t get it.

I was twelve years old when I realized my mama had never even seen Aretha Franklin in concert, let alone been friends with her. But I was hooked by the time I was seventeen and suffered my first break-up.  I played “Don’t Play that Song”  over and over, even though I was violating Miss Aretha’s orders.

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Then, I became a “real woman” and thought I was grown. I didn’t know it would take me fifteen more years to become a real real woman, because when I heard Dr. Feel Good–two decades after my mother had played it and laughed like she had a secret–and I realized it was a slightly naughty song, I felt I had arrived at an exotic locale.

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Miss Aretha was really my first introduction to the blues. I heard “Drink Muddy Water” on my mother’s record player well before I knew about Bessie Smith or Lead Belly–or even B.B. King. I heard stories about musicians my mother and father had seen live, like Billy Holiday or Dinah Washington, but those weren’t the first records I heard. Aretha was first.

She has helped me to travel to that Black community place, and a bunch of other important destinations–like spirituality and defiance and razor-blade-heartache and do-right womanhood–though I’ll probably never meet her.

So let’s all pray for Miss Aretha, y’all. Get well soon, Our Queen.

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