Aretha’s Wisdom


Aretha Franklin’s music was a constant in my household growing up. My mother was heavy into the soul classics – Robera Flack, Dionne Warwick, Otis Redding, Arthur Prysock Curtis Mayfield, Al Green amongst others. But Aretha was her girl! When I became a man & understood life a little better, I became more aware of the draw of Aretha’s soul music. Not only did she give us some of the greatest soul tracks of all time, but she also routinely dolled out nuggets of wisdom on music, aging, and female independence. Women, especially black women, found strength in Aretha’s soulful expressions. Here are some shiny pearls of wisdom she dropped over the years:

On respect:

A common theme for Aretha has always been the title of one of her most famous songs. “Everybody wants respect,” she told Rolling Stone in 2014. “In their own way, three-year-olds would like respect, and acknowledgment, in their terms.”

In a 2016 Elle piece about “Respect,” an Otis Redding cover that quickly rose to the top of the charts, Franklin told Sheila Weller, “As women, we do have it. We have the power. We are very resourceful. Women absolutely deserve respect. I think women and children and older people are the three least-respected groups in our society.”

On love and (weight) loss:

“Falling out of love is like losing weight,” she said to The Independent in a 2011 interview. “It’s a lot easier putting it on than taking it off.”

On aging and retirement:

“Always semi-retire, never retire. Who wants to just sit somewhere?” she told the AARP Magazine. I’m a people person. And I love performing. It’s the way it is and the way it’s going to be.”

On staying grounded:

On her 1968 single “Think,” Aretha sang:

People walking around everyday

Playing games, taking score

Trying to make other people lose their minds

Ah, be careful you don’t lose yours.

On overcoming obstacles:

From a 1964 Ebony interview: “It’s the rough side of the mountain that’s the easiest to climb; the smooth side doesn’t have anything for you to hang on to.”

On the transformative power of music:

When Franklin was told in a 2016 Elle interview that songs like “Respect” inspired Harmony Grillo, an advocate for sexually exploited girls, to leave the man who had exploited her, the singer responded, “That makes it all worthwhile, just to know I uplifted another person — I wouldn’t be doing anything else. In terms of helping people understand and know each other a little better, music is universal — universal and transporting.”

On female independence:

From “A Rose Is Still a Rose” (1998):

A rose is still a rose

Baby girl, you’re still a flower

He can leave you and then take you

Make you and then break you

Darlin’, you hold the power.

On appreciating every day:

At her 74th birthday celebration in New York City, Aretha told People, “Every birthday is a gift. Every day is a gift.”

See more here.


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