The Gulf Today - Panorama - - COVER STORY - Michael Jansen

Last week­end the US staged very dif­fer­ent funer­als for two celebrities. Aretha Franklin was an in­ter­na­tion­ally pop­u­lar singer, pian­ist and song­writer whose life story cap­tured the hearts of mil­lions. John Mccain, was a right-wing Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor who sur­vived more than ive years of bru­tal cap­tiv­ity in North Viet­nam and, dur­ing his ive terms in the se­nate, oc­ca­sion­ally veered from party pol­icy to take a prin­ci­pled stand.

Franklin was born in 1942 in Ten­nessee into a large Africanamer­i­can fam­ily. Her fa­ther, a Bap­tist cleric, was the son of a poor ten­ant farmer liv­ing in ru­ral Mis­sis­sippi at a time the tide of anti-black racism was run­ning strong.

Mccain was born in 1936 into a priv­i­leged US naval fam­ily liv­ing in the Us-con­trolled Panama Canal Zone. He grew up mov­ing from naval post to naval post. Mccain’s fa­ther and grand­fa­ther, for whom he was named, be­came ad­mi­rals, Mccain a naval pi­lot.

Although both were killed by can­cer, the last rites of Franklin and Mccain could not have been more dif­fer­ent. Franklin’s fu­neral was a cheer­ful, mu­sic-illed cel­e­bra­tion of her life; Mccain’s a solemn good­bye to a man many ad­mired with­out ref­er­ence to his record of cham­pi­oning the pro­jec­tion of US mil­i­tary power, in­clud­ing wars in this re­gion. Enough about Mccain.

When she was 2, Aretha Franklin’s fa­ther, C.L. Franklin, a gifted preacher, was trans­ferred to a church in the state of New York. Three years later he shifted to the New Bethel Bap­tist Church in De­troit in the Mid­west­ern state of Michi­gan. Aretha’s mother played the pi­ano and sang but died be­fore the child was 10, leav­ing Aretha in the care of her fa­ther. Singer Ma­halia Jack­son, known as the “Queen of Gospel,” helped look af­ter the many Franklin chil­dren.

Aretha’s fa­ther, his church, and De­troit in the six­ties formed the girl’s char­ac­ter, drove her am­bi­tion, and set her on a course for life. C.L. Franklin was a pop­u­lar preacher whose ser­mons were broad­cast across the coun­try, recorded and sold at mu­sic shops. His charisma and de­mand for “re­spect” for African-amer­i­cans made Aretha proud of be­ing his daugh­ter. He recog­nised her mu­si­cal tal­ents, ar­ranged for pi­ano lessons, and en­cour­aged her to sing re­li­gious songs. He not only sup­ported her de­ci­sion at 18 to shift to rhythm and blues, he moved with her to New York as her man­ager. She had a well­trained, lex­i­ble mezzo-so­prano voice, played the pi­ano well, and of­ten com­posed and ar­ranged her own mu­sic.

Her ca­reer made a mod­est start in 1966 when she recorded Re­spect, which be­came an all-time hit. This was fol­lowed by Chain of Fools, Nat­u­ral Woman, Think, and I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You). She sub­se­quently recorded hun­dreds of songs, per­formed at scores of events, and sold 75 mil­lion records world­wide.

She won mul­ti­ple awards and honours and in 2008, Rolling Stone mag­a­zine called her the num­ber one great­est pop singer of all time ahead of Elvis Pres­ley.

Fans no­ticed that when­ever she went on stage she car­ried her purse, of­ten plac­ing it on the pi­ano where she could keep an eye on it.

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