I don't often go big for honorary titles, but every so often the powers that be get it right. For example, I have never been completely comfortable calling Elvis "The King." His impact and influence is undeniable, but he essentially usurped the throne that belonged to Chuck Berry. But, since justice doesn't tend to have much to do with the the way kingdoms are handed out, I suppose it makes some sense. Michael Jackson as the "King of Pop?" Okay. I won't argue that, if only for those moments when he had just made Off the Wall and was on his way to unleashing Thriller on an unsuspecting planet. Not quite Chuck Berry, but it'll do.
Late last week, the Queen of Soul died. Long live the Queen. I don't have much to quibble with when it comes to calling Aretha Franklin The Queen Of Soul. There are not very many folks lining up to argue about this one. She was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Elvis and Chuck Berry made it in that first year, but Aretha was right there behind them. There was no doubt as to who had earned the R-E-S-P-E-C-T. She defined it. In 1980, she gave a command performance for that other queen, Elizabeth. She performed at inaugurations for Presidents, perhaps most notably, bringing down the house not just with her rendition of "My Country 'Tis Of Thee" but her amazing hat as well.
But what I think I will remember most about Ms. Franklin was her no-nonsense performance in The Blues Brothers. There was no doubt that her vocal chops would stand that test, even in the company of other greats such as Ray Charles, James Brown, and John Lee Hooker, she filled the screen with her own style and grace. Wearing a dirty apron. In that film she also managed to hold her place as in her character, as well as her singing. We should all do right by her and "Think."
And now she's gone, leaving a void in the royal succession. Who could possibly presume upon that title now that the Queen has gone and left us? I would suggest that the position be left vacant. For the time being, anyway. Anyone who sang for Martin Luther King as well as the Obamas holds a lasting place in the pantheon of music.
Aloha, Aretha. You stomped on the Terra, and you will be missed.