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LONG LIVE THE QUEEN! J’can singers remember icon Aretha Franklin

Yesterday Jamaicans woke, up to the news that the Queen of Soul, multi Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and pianist Aretha Franklin had died.

The legendary artiste, known for classic songs including (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and Say A Little Prayer, died at her home in Detroit after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 76. She had a significant impact on a number of Jamaican acts like singer and president of the Jamaica Federation of Musicians and Affiliates Union Karen Smith. She described Franklin’s passing as the end of an era.

Karen Smith

Karen Smith

“We have a lot of other voices, but there is only one Aretha Franklin. She remains what it means to be a great artiste with a voice like no other. Her passing leaves a void in the music industry. When you hear her interpret other people’s music, it is like you are hearing the song for the first time. The way she bends a note and curves a lyric till it reaches that deep part inside you… truly a talent,” Smith told Splash. “Queens are not born everyday, and so we look to the birth of another with her passing. But just like how there is only one Bob Marley and one Luther Vandross, there is only one Aretha… no sound alike, none other like her. We have been lucky to have been born in this generation that has experienced such greatness.”

In her cabaret set, Smith does a medley of Franklin’s hits — ‘Natural Woman’, Say A Little Prayer, Think, and R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

“I was privileged to see her live when she performed at the Jamaica World Music Festival in Montego Bay (1982). While I was working in Las Vegas in 1989 and we were putting material together, we came up with the medley and it has stood the test of time,” Smith said.



For Alaine, Franklin inspired on many levels.

“I have always loved her music… I grew up on it. Not only was she a great vocalist, but she was also a pianist so I was inspired, always thinking I can do that. Then there was the spiritual side which also appealed to me. The world has lost another great artiste. She was a great example of greatness. So classy from beginning to end,” said Alaine.

Judy Mowatt

Judy Mowatt

Judy Mowatt also recognised Aretha Franklin as one of her favourite acts.

“In the 1970s Aretha’s music related to the human situation, especially for us as women. When you think of a song like Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, this and other songs truly related to me back then. I would later learn that these were based on her own life experiences. I would later realise that when you are committed to a song, it really reaches people in a sincere way,” Mowatt explained. “I saw this when I performed my own songs like Black Woman. Our generation and those who grew up in the 70s and 80s have truly been influenced by Aretha.”

A statement from Franklin’s publicist Gwendolyn Quinn, on behalf of her family, read that this is “one of the darkest moments of our lives”.

Franklin, who suffered undisclosed health issues in recent years, announced her retirement from touring last year.

Aretha Louise Franklin was born March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee but grew up in Detroit. Her father was civil rights leader Rev C L Franklin.

She is survived by four sons.