Aretha Franklin was amazing. I’m not going to try to describe her voice, I’m not that good a writer. I’ll just say it was magical, miraculous even. Her death, even though it wasn’t surprising, shook me. I found myself distracted and frequently looking on social media to see all the tributes that were posted. I’ve known her music for as long as I can remember. Given her presence in my Dad’s record collection, I’m sure I first heard her as an infant. Upon hearing the news of her death, the song “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” popped into my head. I found this puzzling. Of all of Aretha’s songs, that wasn’t the one I would have expected.
I would have expected the song “Think” because it’s truly musical perfection. Also, it shows off everything that made Aretha great in one song. It’s got her piano intro, her piano playing was so integral to her overall sound. Her voice soars and demands to be listened to. It’s one of those songs that can’t get old. It’s exciting, maybe downright surprising, every time I hear it. It’s brilliant.
I wouldn’t have been surprised if “Respect” had been the song I thought of. It’s her most iconic song. I’m a fan of the Otis Redding original, but, I hate to say, it’s pretty sexist. It’s great that Aretha flipped it on it’s head and turned it into a feminist anthem.
“Natural Woman” is another that I might have expected. She was known as the Queen of Soul, and she never sounded more majestic than she did on that song.
Another is “Since You’ve Been Gone.” It’s gloriously funky. It’s got her piano again. And there’s simply no way her ex doesn’t take her back. Her voice is so sexy and seductive, no man is going to say no to her.
“The Weight” could have easily been the song to pop into my head. It’s wonderful. It’s everything a cover song should be. It completely reinvents The Band’s original while still being recognizable as the same song. Plus it has the added bonus of featuring Duane Allman on guitar.
But the song that actually did pop into my head was “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man .” I can’t explain it. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great song. It’s a slow song, which really allows Aretha to stretch and show off her Gospel roots. Her piano playing is prominent, and I’m a sucker for that. It’s a sparse arrangement, just bass, drums, piano, organ and vocals. I know Aretha is responsible for the piano and vocals, and I’m pretty sure she played the organ as well. It’s like she was showing off, but it doesn’t feel at all showy.
When I got home from work, the first thing I did was go through my record collection and pull out all of Aretha’s music. I listened to “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” a bunch of times. I’m going to spend the next few days binging on her music and be thankful for the gifts she shared with us.