'Globe' And Other Newspapers Stand Together: 'Journalists Are Not The Enemy'

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Originally published on August 16, 2018 10:22 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We are sad to report this morning that the Queen of Soul has died. Aretha Franklin was 76 and had pancreatic cancer. Let's look back now with NPR's Ted Robbins.

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: No one's life can be condensed to one word. But, Aretha Franklin, she came close when she sang this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RESPECT")

ARETHA FRANKLIN: (Singing) R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Take care, TCB.

ROBBINS: "Respect." The song was written by the great Otis Redding. In his version, a man is pleading, offering his woman anything she wants in exchange for her respect.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RESPECT")

OTIS REDDING: (Singing) Hey, little girl, your soul's sweeter than honey. And I'm about to just give you all of my money.

ROBBINS: Aretha Franklin flipped the perspective.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RESPECT")

FRANKLIN: (Singing) Ooh, your kisses, sweeter than honey. And guess what? So is my money.

ROBBINS: She was 25 years old when "Respect" went to the top of the charts in 1967. She told NPR in 2004 that she'd been singing in church since she was a small child.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

FRANKLIN: Someone found the footstool in the office and put it there on stage for me to stand on to sing because they didn't feel that I would be seen, I was so small.

ROBBINS: She was 14 when she recorded this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRECIOUS LORD")

FRANKLIN: (Singing) Father. Father. Father, hear my cry, Lord. And, oh, hear my call.

ROBBINS: Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis. She grew up in Detroit, where her father was the famous preacher C.L. Franklin. She told PBS "American Masters" that her father would coach her.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AMERICAN MASTERS")

FRANKLIN: He would give me different records to listen to, and to see if I could emulate them on the piano, different vocalists to listen to.

ROBBINS: Gospel vocalists. But Aretha listened to popular music, too, and met rhythm and blues artists as she toured with her father.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AMERICAN MASTERS")

FRANKLIN: People like Fats Domino, and Bobby Bland and many other artists that would be staying in the same hotel that we would be staying in.

ROBBINS: And there was her Detroit neighborhood. It was filled with future Motown stars, like Diana Ross, The Four Tops and Smokey Robinson.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AMERICAN MASTERS")

SMOKEY ROBINSON: I've known Aretha since I was probably 8 years old. She grew up right around the corner from me.

ROBBINS: When Aretha was 18, she confided to her father that she longed to cross over from gospel to secular music. If that's what she wanted, he would help her. They made a demo which led to a contract with Columbia Records. In 1961, the bluesy "Won't Be Long" reached the Billboard Hot 100.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WON'T BE LONG")

FRANKLIN: (Singing) My daddy told me when he said goodbye - yes, he did - I'll be back, baby. Baby, bye and bye.

ROBBINS: Then she moved to Atlantic Records. That's where she became the Queen of Soul. Just listen to some of the classics she released between the late 1960s and the mid-'70s.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHAIN OF FOOLS")

FRANKLIN: (Singing) Chain, chain, chain. Chain of fools.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THINK")

FRANKLIN: (Singing) You better think. Think about what you're trying to do to me, yeah. Think, think. Let your mind go. Let yourself be free. Oh, freedom.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO RIGHT WOMAN")

FRANKLIN: (Singing) If you want a do-right-all-day woman, you got to be a do-right-all-night man.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "(YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE) A NATURAL WOMAN")

FRANKLIN: (Singing) 'Cause you make me feel, you make me feel, you make me feel like a natural woman.

ROBBINS: Aretha Franklin grew up in the civil rights era, and she was deeply involved in the movement. Her father was a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AMERICAN MASTERS")

FRANKLIN: My dad brought him to Detroit and introduced him to the city of Detroit through the New Bethel Baptist Church.

ROBBINS: The late comedian and activist Dick Gregory told PBS the Franklins helped fund the movement.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AMERICAN MASTERS")

DICK GREGORY: If Martin needed money, he could make one phone call to Reverend Franklin, and that money was there. Also, Reverend Franklin could deliver his daughter over whatever record executives or managers would say.

ROBBINS: Aretha Franklin's songs helped the nation through the assassination of Dr. King, and they helped American soldiers in Vietnam.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

FRANKLIN: On occasion, I hear that some of them helped them get through the service, the war. And I'm delighted by that.

ROBBINS: Franklin continued recording and had hits into the 1990s.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A ROSE IS STILL A ROSE")

FRANKLIN: (Singing) Because a rose is still a rose. Baby girl, you're still a flower.

ROBBINS: She performed with The Rolling Stones, and when tenor Luciano Pavarotti became ill, she filled in for him, singing Puccini at the 1998 Grammy Awards.

(SOUNDBITE OF 40TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS TELECAST)

FRANKLIN: (Singing in Italian).

ROBBINS: As successful as she was, Aretha Franklin had a turbulent personal life. Her mother died before she was 10. Her father was shot in an attempted robbery and lingered in a coma for five years before he died. She had two children before age 17, and two more later during two marriages which ended in divorce. She struggled with her weight and with smoking. Franklin continued performing but she rarely toured because of a fear of flying. Still, in 2009, she sang for the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY COUNTRY 'TIS OF THEE")

FRANKLIN: (Singing) My country, 'tis of thee. Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

ROBBINS: Aretha Franklin received just about every award a singer can get, from 18 Grammys, to the Presidential Medal of Freedom to being the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She performed until she couldn't anymore because, as she once said, being the Queen of Soul was second nature to her.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER")

FRANKLIN: (Singing) Forever - forever - and ever, you'll stay in my heart.

ROBBINS: Ted Robbins, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER")

FRANKLIN: (Singing) Forever and ever. We never will part. We'll be together.

GREENE: Reporter Allison Keyes contributed to that story.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER")

FRANKLIN: (Singing) Would only mean heartbreak for me. Nobody but me. Forever - ever - and ever, ever... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.