What a singer, what an interpreter of other people’s songs!
Since the news of her death hit the media yesterday I’ve been wallowing in the tributes coming in from all sides, listening to and/or watching some of her performances on YouTube and listening to the contributions of people who either knew or admired her as have been phoned in to and/or solicited by Radio Five Live.
Today I’m not even going to post links to any of her ‘greatest hits’ for the benefit of Rust readers. No doubt those Rusters who are interested will have already been doing much as I have since yesterday and will not need me to ‘offer’ them examples of Aretha at her best for their benefit because they’ll already have their own favourites.
That said, I have been particularly impressed and emotionally affected by a tape of Aretha leading a gospel congregation at the age of 14 and sounding … well, just like Aretha Franklin; by her show-stopping performance of (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman at the 2015 Kennedy Centre tribute to Carol King when clearly in failing health; and by her performance of Nessun Dorma at the 1998 Grammies event at twenty minutes’ notice after Pavarotti pulled out at the last moment citing a bad voice (which extraordinary event I had never previously heard of or known about until it was mentioned on Radio Five Live’s Up All Night).
One veteran male musician who worked with her summed it up well on Radio Five Live by mentioning her always perfect pitch, her stunning piano playing – intuitive not taught – and her capacity to make any song she sang instantly her own. Artistes like this don’t come along too often and it is fitting that we should celebrate them.