I enjoy baseball and R&B music. Last Wednesday night they came together wonderfully.
Aretha Franklin sang the national anthem before the third game of the American League Championship Series between the Detroit Tigers and the Texas Rangers. The slimmed down Queen of Soul was looking and sounding great. I don't care for many of the renditions of the Star Spangled Banner at sporting events but it was classic Aretha from the very first notes at Comerica Park and it was great.
There were rumors late last year that the 68 year old singer had pancreatic cancer. Thankfully they were not true. However, she did have surgery for an undisclosed ailment and her doctor says it "will add 15-20 more years" to her life. She has attributed losing more than 80 pounds to a change in diet and exercise.
Since Aretha is a PK (Preacher's Kid) her roots in gospel run extremely deep. While growing up in the 1950s she sang with her sisters Carolyn and Erma at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit where her father, Reverend C.L. Franklin, was pastor. She made her first recordings as a gospel artist at the age of 14.
Aretha Franklin has had a total of 45 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. She also has the most million-selling singles of any female artist (14). Her sisters were her backup singers in 1972 when she released her first gospel album in nearly two decades. The album eventually became her biggest-selling release ever, selling over two million copies and becoming the best-selling gospel album of all time. In 1987, she became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was the only featured singer at the 2009 presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.
Her astonishing run of late-'60s hits with Atlantic Records-- Respect, I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You), Chain of Fools, I Say a Little Prayer, Think, The House That Jack Built, and several others-- earned her the title "Lady Soul," which she has worn uncontested ever since.
The following words of one of her songs* caught my attention recently:
Looking out on the morning rain
I used to feel uninspired
And when I knew I had to face another day
Lord, it made me feel so tired
Before the day I met you, life was so unkind
But your love was the key to my peace of mind
When my soul was in the lost-and-found
You came along to claim it
I didn't know just what was wrong with me
Till your (love) helped me name it
Now I'm no longer doubtful of what I'm living for
Cause if I make you happy I don't need no more
I know the kind of human love that Aretha sings about. If the love one person has for another person can make such a difference, isn't it reasonable to believe that God's love can be tremendously transforming? I have experienced the power of God's "love that will not let me go." It far surpasses that of any human being. I wish everyone in the world knew the love of God like I do. I guess it is my responsibility to tell them, don't you think?
*(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman, lyrics by Carole King and Gerry Goffin