I will never forget.
When I was 15 years old I went to a record store that was in the local shopping mall. Yes, it was a record store, as in it sold nothing but records. And it was an awesome place for a teenager because all the latest albums were on display and so we could keep up with all the popular artists. Obviously that was way before iTunes or YouTube were thought about.
So on this particular visit I shopped as I usually did, with my head up looking at the beautiful album covers hanging throughout the store. And one in particular caught my eye. It wasn’t new, but there was something about the artwork that attracted me right away. It was a singer I knew about, but did not have any of her records. That was the Queen Of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin.
Without really considering any other albums, I went to the album table that included the artists E-F, and pulled out “Young, Gifted And Black”. I was enchanted by the stained glass windows in the background, and there was just something about Aretha that I couldn’t easily describe. Still can’t. It’s special, unique and downright magical. But I don’t believe that there’s only one word that puts all that together, so I’ll always use all three.
When I went up to the cashier’s desk, I handed my album to the man behind the register, who happened to be an African American gentleman of about 40 or 50 years old. He looked at the Young, Gifted And Black album, and then back to me, kind of squinting. He said “Young lady you can surely be two of these things.” I was crushed and he probably saw it. Then he smiled and added “But you’ve already got great taste in music and that counts for a lot!”
Feeling like I was now walking on air, I hurried out of the store and made fast tracks to the bus stop to get home as quickly as possible.
I think I had one foot in the door of my house when I put the record on the turntable (okay here everyone knows what a turntable is, thank God, because they are trendy now) and started playing. The title track was great. And so was every single one besides that. It’s a small miracle in itself that I didn’t wear that record out playing it every single day. I just loved the sound of Aretha’s voice. It was strong, gentle, proud and so amazing that I could sit and listen and do nothing else. Also a small miracle as I was and still tend to be rather hyper.
But that was not the only one of Heaven’s miracles that happened after I bought that album. One day I walked into the kitchen and found my mother starting to cook dinner. She told me it would be about an hour or so before we ate so I had time to do some homework. And as I left the kitchen, I heard my mom softly singing. It was “Daydreaming (And Thinking Of You)” from that beautiful Young, Gifted and Black album. Aretha had brought together two generations. Like I said, the woman was magical.
I will always cherish that memory. And Aretha Franklin’s music will always be near and dear to my heart. I know she’s singing with the angels right now. Lucky them.
Aretha Franklin : March 25, 1942 – August 16, 2018