When Aretha Franklin died, the clip has been shared the most popular, the most powerful reminder of his raw, soul-stirring emotional force – it was a 2015 performance of his 1967 hit, ” (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.
The yield at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony brought a tear to Barack Obama in the eye, and to the left of the song’s co-writer Carole King in raptures.
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It was also the song that Ariana Grande and Alicia Keys, both turned when they performed separately tributes after the Queen of Soul, died Thursday.
“This is one of my favorite songs,” Keys said Beats 1 Radio. “I think this is probably all of our favorite song. That’s why I wanted to choose”.
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A Natural Woman is one of a series of traces, the Respect, I Say A Little Prayer and Thinking, that Aretha recorded at a unique period, in the late 1960s and that has become his signature songs.
“As soon as you move, it shakes,” British singer Beverley Knight has said the Keeper of The Kennedy Center performance. “And this is what he has done.”
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The song was born when Carole King and her ex-husband and songwriting partner Gerry Goffin have been walking down Broadway, one day.
Atlantic Records Jerry Wexler pulled up next to them in a limo, rolled down the window and said: “I’m looking for a really big hit for Aretha. How about writing a song, A Natural Woman?”
King and Goffin had written that night, after putting the kids to bed.
However, it was Franklin’s voice that it has given its transformative nature.
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Apparently a song about a woman feeling appreciated by her husband, the strength of Franklin’s voice allowed the text to “transcend the validation by a lover,” says entertainment writer, Toyin Owoseje.
“He captured his power. The way Aretha sang has given a deeper meaning: that of empowerment and self-love”, Owoseje tells the BBC News.
“As a woman of color, this song still resonates for me today.
“The company continues to place us at the bottom of the pecking order, and find ways to make us doubt of ourselves, but the conviction in his voice is a reminder that we are strong and always overcome.”
Growing up, Owoseje says that the track has served as a timely reminder that “our reels, our curves, our lips, our melanin are beautiful”.
But it has been argued that the inspiration for Franklin a passionate voice, and it was probably attracted by a place of pain.
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Encouraged by his father, Aretha made her first recording, the album of Songs of Faith, when he was only 14, had already given birth to her first son, Clarence.
He had a second son, Edward, when he was 16 years old, managing to keep her singing career when her grandmother offered to raise the two boys.
Three years later, she married her manager Ted White, but the separation of the couple after seven years of marriage, including claims of domestic abuse.
Time magazine cover on Franklin in 1968 – making her only the second African-American woman cover star, claimed White, “roughed her up” more than once.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Front Row on Thursday, journalist Paul Gambaccini, said that “without a doubt” the pain of these experiences inspired Franklin studio vocal for A Natural Woman.
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Listen to Aretha Franklin tracks (BBC Music)
Reflecting on that Kennedy Center performance, said: “She was still looking for the great man of his life, and the man who would have made it feel like a natural woman.”Modern-day message
Despite being five decades old, the message of satisfaction and self-confidence has probably never been more pertinent than in today’s social media age.
And Owoseje says, “the erasure of women of color” remains high in the entertainment industry.
In this climate, the Natural Woman, and Franklin’s spirit inside of it, will be powerful as never before, ” he says.
“The only narrative that the media, as is the ‘angry black woman.” It is old and tired, totally inaccurate.
“That’s why songs like A Natural Woman are so important.
“Act as a reminder of the dignity and equality of all women deserve.”
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