Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Can We Be Franklin?

"I Say A Little Prayer," as performed by Aretha Franklin

"I don’t care what they say about Aretha,” Billy Preston, who died in 2006, once said. “She can be hiding out in her house in Detroit for years. She can go decades without taking a plane or flying off to Europe. She can cancel half her gigs and infuriate every producer and promoter in the country. She can sing all kinds of jive-ass songs that are beneath her. She can go into her diva act and turn off the world. But on any given night, when that lady sits down at the piano and gets her body and soul all over some righteous song, she’ll scare the shit out of you. And you’ll know—you’ll swear—that she’s still the best fuckin’ singer this fucked-up country has ever produced.”

That's the final paragraph of David Remnick's wonderful profile of Aretha Franklin in the April 4, 2016 issue of The New Yorker. 

To realize that what Billy Preston said was utterly true, all you have to do is listen to this song and hear Aretha Franklin's body and soul all over it. What a treat to the blood and the brain it is to hear (twice!) that silky, sexy voice caress ". . . There is no one but you . . ." like it's got the whole Eros thing in us completely figured out. "The Sweet Inspirations" are the pleasingly identified girls behind her (more bodies and souls all over the song), and are just as wonderful: all that gorgeous mutuality makes you wonder how we ever manage to feel unhappy sometimes. 

But whenever you do feel miserable, or just mildly sad, or just a little off, I suggest this singer and these singers singing this song. They're all over it.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Ali Out

"What A Man," by Salt-N-Pepa

He took big punches (and so many!) from everything and everyone: from himself, from the American government, from gigantic white America, from swindlers of his wealth, from disease, from old age, from other boxers -- Joe Frazier, according to the man himself, almost killed him; Joe Frazier, rightfully, hated him because Ali tried to rob him of his humanity. They fought three times, Frazier officially lost twice, but both of them lost all three times. They were both infinitely braver than I ever will be, but they didn't really win anything.   

He made his living from fighting. That used to be something I liked to watch, but because I've learned how frail the brain can be, I don't care for it anymore. I still respect it, I just can't watch it.

I could never stop watching Muhammad Ali, however, even when I wanted to: He was just too tough, too strong, too smart, too brave, too old, too frail, too beautiful, his face too bright and pretty, his eyes too alive. It's been the strangest thing: Ever since I found out, in the middle of a few nights ago, that he was gone, whenever I've subsequently seen him and heard his voice in the papers and on TV, my normally reliable resistance to tears just checks out for a second or two. The tears evaporate quickly, but leak out from somewhere they do.

The linked song is all about romantic love and has nothing to do with Muhammad Ali, but the refrain is all him, and you will want to sing it (and dance) when you think about him.