LEAVING ON A HIGH NOTE
THE CONTRASTING FUNERALS OF TWO NOTED AMERICAN PERSONALITIES, INTERNATIONALLY POPULAR SINGER ARETHA FRANKLIN AND REPUBLICAN SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, WERE HELD LAST WEEKEND
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.