Aretha: How to Be A Soul Survivor

(Video link here.) Soul Survivor, David Remnick’s compelling profile of complex, mysterious, brilliant, notoriously “infuriating” singer Aretha Franklin in a recent New Yorker, sent us looking for videos of the great diva in action. Not the time we saw her decados ago wearing a pink satin dress that showed the slight impression of her navel when she leaned back to sing R-E-S-P-E-C-T, but the later Aretha, now in her seventies and still at it, often wearing a mink that she would let slide to the floor at the emotional crescendo of a song.

We stumbled on this rough video of Aretha playing piano herself, in a mode that was more churchlike gospel – her roots — than theater performance. The music seems to just flow through her and a song you’ve heard a thousand times transforms and gains new meaning. The late Billy Preston’s view of her is also a commentary on artists whose extroardinary talent belies less-than-stellar behavior. (Wondrous talent does not equate to wondrous person, but wondrous work can have redemtive power all its own):

“I don’t care what they say about Aretha. She can be hiding out in her house in Detroit for years. She can go decades without taking a plane or flying off to Europe. She can cancel half her gigs and infuriate every producer and promoter in the country. She can sing all kinds of jive-ass songs that are beneath her. She can go into her diva act and turn off the world. But on any given night, when that lady sits down at the piano and gets her body and soul all over some righteous song, she’ll scare the shit out of you. And you’ll know—you’ll swear—that she’s still the best fuckin’ singer this fucked-up country has ever produced.”
Richard Avedon, The Richard Avedon Foundation

Richard Avedon, The Richard Avedon Foundation

If you’re tired or troubled, or need some uplift to start your day, play it a while (you don’t have to watch), and let her groove hearten you.
When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all;
I’m on your side. When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.When you’re down and out,
When you’re on the street,
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you.
I’ll take your part.
When darkness comes
And pain is all around,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down. Sail on silvergirl,
Sail on by.
Your time has come to shine.
All your dreams are on their way.
See how they shine.
If you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.

 

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