BY K.J. EDWARDS
Songbird Aretha Franklin passed away August 16, 2018. Of many legends, she is one who received her flowers in life, and inevitably, continues to receive them in death. The Grammy’s, BET and Billboard are amongst the top anticipated music awards shows to give an Aretha Franklin tribute. But these shows have a problematic history when it comes to honoring legends. Billboard regularly favors popular white artists to perform tributes with no consideration for appropriateness and talent. Let’s not talk about BET’s Michael Jackson tribute.
Aretha began her singing career in gospel, and became a Rhythm & Blues singer in the early 60’s. She went on to earn 18 Grammy wins over four decades in multiple genres, including Opera. She is Black American Royalty — because of this passing the mic to any ole singer just won’t do.
By studying this flow chart posted on social media by Marc Lamont Hill, I determined the best approach to select who would qualify to honor Miss Franklin on a grandstage:
Singing ability is the easiest and most self-explanatory. If you don’t have the chops, stay home. If you used to have the chops, but for no good reason they are missing, stay home. If you have the chops, but you didn’t come to use them (Mariah Carey), then stay home.
Proper knowledge is a tricky addition to this equation. To put it simply, it’s a good idea to actually know about whom you are giving tribute. Toddlers with Similac on their breath singing Miss Franklin’s classics is a hard pass. The babies need to stay home.
The final and most important component here is RESPECT. If the Queen of Soul did not respect your singing, be equally respectful. Keep you, your “beautiful gowns” and “good production” home.
Now that the criteria has been established, let’s move on to those who should undoubtedly receive an invite and why.
Pop songs showcased the lighter side of Aretha. While always giving you vocals, she didn’t always hit us over the head with them. Sometimes she just dropped a breezy bop. There are singers who can definitely wing this category in her honor
Tina Turner – A living legend in her own right, Anna Mae would give “Rock Steady” the funky, uptempo jam the interpretation it deserves.
Contemporary Soul reintroduced Franklin to the youth during the 90’s. These songs gave older Millennials and Gen X’ers new reasons to adore the Queen.
Kelly Price -“It Hurts like Hell” from the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack lends itself to Kelly’s soulful voice and stands side by side with some of Kelly’s biggest hits.
Classics are the songs that live on long after we perish because — classics. They are not always the most popular or complex, but in Auntie Ree’s hands they were memorable.
Fantasia – ‘Tasia’s raspy, voice is perfect for “Say a Little Prayer.” Fantasia is often moved by the Holiness during her performances. This is the perfect song for her to be slain in the spirit.
Anthony Hamilton – the modern-day soul man himself was made to sing “Son of a Preacher Man.” Anthony would sing this with his chest and all the depth he musters.
Mariah Carey – “I Never Loved a Man” is a bluesy classic requiring range and power. Mariah could fit into multiple categories, but she is not performing at her best these days. However, it is in her.
Luke James, Maxwell and Bilal – “Aint No Way”. Each possess the raw talent necessary to sing Franklin’s haunting melody and can replicate Cissy Houston’s beautiful solitary high note that lingers throughout the tune.
Yolanda Adams, Tamela Mann, KeKe Wyatt, Jennifer Hudson, Patti Labelle all posses gifts bestowed by the vocal Gods.
While Patti may seem like a problematic choice since the ladies were rumored to dislike one another, most Queens put personal differences aside.
Rest in peace Aretha. ❤ pic.twitter.com/QT7HeY5SIf
— Patti LaBelle (@MsPattiPatti) August 16, 2018
Every singer listed is 100 percent capable of taking the lead in these cherished and complex pieces, while serving the humility the Queen deserves.
Only two responsibilities remain for the subjects of her highness:
- Sing her name and praises until the end of time
- Don’t fuck up her tributes.
If they cannot deliver for The Queen of Soul, my only hope is they show a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T and politely decline.