By Graeme Hill, RadioLIVE’s Weekend Variety Wireless host
OPINION: Aretha... The second name unnecessary.
On her death, I've been hearing a lot of pundits making the bold claim she is the greatest US voice ever.
One immediately ponders the works of Mahalia Jackson (a Franklin family friend), Sarah Vaughan, Billy Holiday, Bobby Gentry, Nina Simone, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Janis and even Whitney. It has to be a matter of taste but yes, she's in the upper echelon of that pantheon and inasmuch as impact, influence, legacy and representing something so American and so exquisite – I reckon you gotta say... yes, she is indeed.
Humble beginnings aren't unusual in soul singer history but this single fact should do. When Aretha was first signed to a record company she was 14 and pregnant with her SECOND child. Jeez.
In the myriad of The Voice and Who's Got Talent-type shows, ever noticed that it's the concept of Aretha that every second vocalist aspires to? I wish they wouldn't actually but as a subconscious exemplar, it's Aretha wanna-be and Aretha the viewers really want.
You'll hear “Respect”, “Natural Woman”, “I Say A Little Prayer” and “Think” all over the place but here's my clear favourite.
All calm and class. Wow, she sure was something.
Graeme Hill is host of RadioLIVE’s Weekend Variety Wireless, 8pm - midnight Saturdays and Sundays.