ARETHA FRANKLIN / “Bridge Over Troubled Water/We’ve Only Just Begun”

Before MTV, BET and whatever-TV, there was black radio. Specifically, there were black DJs dropping science with raps so smooth that silk is a synonym for how they emceed. Indeed, if you want to know the roots of modern day MCs, you need to jet back to the sixties and seventies when nearly every major metro area with a population of thirty-or-more thousand Negroes had a black-oriented radio station. (Only a handful of which were actually owned by blacks!) From coast to coast, from New York to New Orleans, these cats set standards for music appreciation that were unmatched then and even fifty years later have never yet been equaled. These guys had an organization, The National Association of Television & Radio Announcers, bka NATRA. These were real DJs, not computerized readers of prepared scripts or players of preselected playlists. These DJs selected the music they played and came up with their own chatter to complement the selected platters. They were tastemakers and trendsetters. They engaged their audiences in a true musical and sociological dialogue, often making sometimes subtle, sometimes blantant commentary as they ran the 411 on the latest releases and kept alive classics from yesteryear. The breadth of the music one could hear was wider and deeper than an ocean. Black radio disc jockeys, what a blessing they were. aretha 22.jpg In 1972 Aretha Franklin performed at NATRA’s annual convention. Do I need to say anything more?! ;->) Yes, I do. This document is available in a limited edition of 7500 copies. Once they are gone… well, word to the wise, this Rhino Handmade recording is available here. If you don’t get it, that’s on you. (Hint: we’ve got an Aretha Franklin week coming!) aretha 10.jpg Aretha Franklin is the gold standard of soul music. Listen and be renewed. —Kalamu ya Salaam              The best soul singer I've ever heard           Aretha Franklin. Man, oh, man. I'm listening to ol' girl blow on "Bridge On Troubled Water" and I'm thinking about two things: commercial radio and young singers. And while thinking on those subjects, I'm gonna say something that might sound bad at first. You know who I blame for the current sorry state of R&B (over-)singing? That's right, Aretha Franklin. But is it really Aretha's fault? Can we really blame her for being so much better at what she does than damn near everyone else that when all of the 'everyone elses' attempt to copy her they sound not just bad, but awful? I think so. We can blame her. All this wailing and screeching that assaults my tender ears every time I try to listen to the radio, or when I accidently pause too long on Fox when American Idol is on, or when I suffered through that two-hour Oscar-nominated debacle Dreamgirls, it's all Aretha's fault. As I detailed a couple of months ago, Aretha had the pipes and the ability to damn near blow the walls off a place, but she also had the good sense and the skill to use that power judiciously. The problem is, there are so many lesser singers who just don't know when to chill out with all that yelling. Somewhere in the dark recesses of their tone deaf heads they must imagine they sound just like Lady Soul herself when what they actually sound like is two cats fighting under the house at three in the morning. I'm listening to "Me Oh My" right now. So, so sweet. (Is Aretha playing piano too? Just wondering.) For me, Aretha is the ultimate emoter of that modern city blues sound. When she opens her mouth you hear all the pain, wonder, hurt and joy of the inner city. It really doesn't matter what she's singing about. She could be singing a love song, a spiritual song, a political song or a blues song and I still hear that same thing: that cool, hard, sweet, sharp, deep, deep, deep blues. She's the best soul singer I've ever heard and I'm including everyone male or female I've ever heard sing anything.   —Mtume ya Salaam P.S. Aretha just ad-libbed, "They say if I lose a little more weight, I just might be kinda fine." That's funny.  

This entry was posted on Monday, December 17th, 2007 at 1:26 am and is filed under Classic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “ARETHA FRANKLIN / “Bridge Over Troubled Water/We’ve Only Just Begun””

Qawi Says:
December 17th, 2007 at 2:31 pm

Thanks Brothers for this post. This is some fantastic music.

I can seriously relate to Mtume’s comment about it being Aretha’s fault. “Aretha had the pipes and the ability to damn near blow the walls off a place, but she also had the good sense and the skill to use that power judiciously. The problem is, there are so many lesser singers who just don’t know when to chill out with all that yelling. ”

Because they all recognize Aretha’s talent, they all try to sound like all the high sounding riffs all the time, which they are not equipped to do. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. However, there will never be another organization of genetic material that will make another Aretha Franklin. There may be better or worse singers, but there won’t be another. Divinely speaking, she was given what she has to do what she does.

I’m not trying to sound philosophical, but if the current generation just tries to sing like they are able to within themselves, it will be genuine and they will be appreciated for that and there will be a lot less staccotto, screaming, straining, bawling, etc.

It also is worth mentioning that besides a High Energy Soul Singer, Aretha is a musician too. That helps.

Marc Says:
December 23rd, 2007 at 10:17 pm

Just wanted to say thanks and best wishes during the holidays to all at B.O.L. With each stop by here, I learn and I love and isn’t that what it’s all about. You’re a true treasure and the music and knowledge you share with the world is cherished.


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