Aretha Franklin has told a Detroit TV station that she plans to “retire” this year, after a new album is released. It’s not entirely clear what her retirement will mean, practically, because she says she’ll still be available to perform now and then. Basically, she wants to spend time with her grandchildren before they head off to college.
I hope the Queen of Soul doesn’t fully drop the mike, because she’s simply irreplaceable. Of all the great female R&B and soul singers of the ’60s and ’70s — and there were a lot of them — Aretha Franklin was without peer. Once she sang a song she made it her own, and there was just something about the tone, and timbre, of her voice that could reach into your chest and grab your heart. Listen to any of her great recordings from the ’60s and you’ll be amazed at how fresh and stunning they still sound, 50 years later. I’ve provided two vintage videos, one from the ’60s and another from the ’70s, that I think make the point.
I hope Aretha Franklin gets to spend that time with her grandkids, but I also hope she’ll continue to give some of her time to the rest of us.