Clarence LaVaughn Franklin was born in 1915 as a child of the Mississippi Delta. The son of sharecroppers he was the deeply immersed in the Black Christian Tradition of the Deep South. As such, he was moved by the riffs and the runs of the church organs and cooled by the old hand held fans placed in the back of the pews. Educated in the sweltering heat and cathartic wails of black suffering expressed in the sanctuary of the Black Baptist Church, he developed what many would come to call a million dollar voice.
At 16, he left Mississippi during the Great Depression along with millions on a mass exodus out of the Jim Crow South. He was a circuit preacher on what would come to be called the itinerant circuit. A circuit preacher is a Christian minister who officiates at multiple churches in an area due to a shortage of ministers. He settled first at New Salem Baptist Church in Memphis, TN before moving on to Buffalo, and then finally to Detroit, Michigan, where he became the Pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church.
Rev. C.L. Franklin
Now going by his initials, Rev C.L. Franklin preached all over the country while maintaining his pulpit at New Bethel. He had his sermons distributed on a record label and sold all over the country. He was a megapastor way before mega churches were a concept. And while he was an attraction in churches all over the City, he was not alone. Many flocked to hear his sermons. But they also flocked to hear the ethereal voice of his third child, Aretha. Although she was a pre-teen, her voice brought many church goers to a profound spiritual climax of joy during her father’s services. A simple hymn sung by her was known to elicit a cascading waterfall of tears from parishioners.
Singing from atop a box adjacent to her father’s pulpit, Aretha displayed a power that could have only been the product of the God for whom she was singing. It also helped matters when her father was surrounded by the likes of Clara Ward, James Cleveland, Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke. While her father was the man with the million dollar voice, he was not blind. He began managing Aretha’s singing career when she was just 12 years old.
He got his daughter signed to the same company that distributed his sermons, JVB Records. While on the label she released Never Grow Old, You Grow Closer, Precious Lord I &II and There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood among other tracks. An ardent supporter of the Civil Rights Movement under the direction of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., her father sent her on tour with Dr. King when she was just 16.
Aretha Franklin’s soulful voice was so powerful that after an array of records released on JVB Records, she was given a title that would stick with her for the rest of her life: The Queen of Soul. But the Queen did not just make contributions to the music industry. Her biggest contributions were made in the movement. It is estimated that Aretha Franklin through her voice, raised as much as 1 million dollars for various organizations in the Civil Rights Movement.
Her contribution was so deep that at a 1967 Cobo Hall concert in Detroit, Martin Luther King Jr. surprised the crowd of 12,000 by presenting her with a special award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. It would be the last time she saw him alive. After his assassination on April 4, 1968, she sung Precious Lord at his funeral.
Aretha’s contribution was not just in music, but in fashion. She was one of first singers to proudly sport an afro with a daishiki to show her pride in being black. Her image and appearance endowed millions with sense of dignity in the hue of their skin. But the epitome of her contribution was the penning of the song that would become an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, Respect. Although a song about a relationship between a man and a woman, it was adopted as the battle cry for the Civil Rights, Black Power and Feminist Movements. Aretha’s symbol of pride did not sacrifice her racial heritage in lieu of her gender. She was both black and a woman, and damn proud of it.
When Black Feminist Revolutionary Angela Davis was captured on conspiracy murder charges, The Queen defied not only society, but more importantly, her record company, Atlantic, when she was ready to post bail for Davis. She stated:“I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a black woman and she wants freedom for black people. I have the money; I got it from black people — they’ve made me financially able to have it — and I want to use it in ways that will help our people.”
Her achievements are so voluminous that they cannot be cataloged with any degree of pin point accuracy in this article. Here are just a few.
Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1979, First woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hard of Fame in 1987. The Grammy Legend Award in 1991. The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994. Kennedy Center Honoree in 1994. National Medal of Arts Recipient in 1999, Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. Inductee into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame in 2005. The Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 2015. In 2013, she was again ranked first in Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Singers.”
Honorary degrees from Harvard and NYU in 2014, Princeton University in 2012; Yale in 2010; Brown University, 2009; University of Penn, 2007; Berklee College of Music in 2006; New England Conservatory of Music in 1997; University of Michigan in 1987. Honorary Doctor of Human Letters by Case Western University 2011; Wayne State University in 1990 and an honorary Doctor of Law degree by Bethune-Cookman College in 1975.
In this atmosphere of Red Pill Awareness, it may not be proper to give RESPECT to one of the greatest black women of the modern era. But Red Pill be damned! Aretha Franklin was the voice of a generation that demanded freedom. She was one of the greatest voices in the history of the planet. She braved all the death threats from faceless bigots because she dared to stand up for those principles that were grounded in her from childhood.
So in this article by this blogger on this day, i’m giving her in death, what she earned in life R-E-S-P-E-C-T. R.espect I.n P.eace
TONY MACEO is a senior blogger at the Negromanosphere and the Chief Blogger at Power and Strategy.com. Feel free to like, share and subscribe to the website. Also check out the online store if you are a chess player. You can also become a Patron @powerofstrategies on Patreon. Till Next Time, I’ll holla!