Friday, August 17, 2018

RIP, Aretha Franklin

     We lost a legend yesterday -- you don't need me to tell you that; the mainstream media has been all over the story, with their usual subtlety.

     NPR re-ran an interview with her from the late 1990s that had more substance to it, including a recording of her at the age of 14, performing gospel music in church.  Even then, her talent is unmistakable.  Her father was a preacher and the interview included a brief excerpt from one of his sermons.  His style was impressive -- not quite "hiccup" preaching, but rhythmic, melodic, a well-written sermon in fairly free verse, almost but not quite sung.

     It reminded me of working in radio a lifetime ago.  Sunday mornings in a typical Indiana county-seat station, you ran a lot of religious programs, in hour or half-hour blocks.  If you were lucky, one of two of them would be a "nemo," live services from a local church, carried over high-quality phone lines. The station I was working for had two such programs.  One was from a very large Methodist church, a professionally-produced, multi-microphone, half-hour segment of their morning services that included the sermon and a few hymns.  It was reliably good and back at the station, I could sit back and spend time in the kind of church I'd grown up attending.

     The other one was from a traditional African-American church.  The sound was picked up by a single, high-quality microphone over the pulpit.  The preacher worked in full-on "hiccup" style, a pattern of verse as structured and complex as any old Norse skaldic poem, and included plenty of call-and-response.  The music was wonderful gospel, full of joy.  The entire service was mesmerizing and I looked forward to it every Sunday I worked.  With just one microphone, it took a little gain-riding at the station -- but that single mike meant you were right there, in the middle of everything.  It was some of the best radio I ever had the opportunity to be involved with.

     TV and radio has been playing plenty of Aretha Franklin's better-known work.  Here's one they may've missed, her take on "I Say A Little Prayer."


Mike V said...

In the mountains of Applachia, it was called the “chant” style of preaching. You’d hear it a lot in old timey churches.

RandyGC said...

That brings back memories. During High School and college during Christmas and summer breaks I worked the Sunday Morning Sign-on shift.

We had one live broadcast (local Methodist Church) and the rest various types mailed in on tape (reel-reel) or LP.

The most memorable was Reverend Schambach's Miracle Revival Hour. Another one where you had to ride the pots on the board, and remember to bring them back up afterwards for everyone else.

As to the primary gist of this post; RIP Ms.Franklin. You will be missed, but your music will be forever.

RandyGC said...

P.S. Thanks for the link. Brings back other memories of my younger days. I like the Dionne Warwick version as well, but no one does it better than the Queen of Soul.

pigpen51 said...

I miss some of the old singers, like Billie Holiday, Etta James, and now Aretha Franklin. But like those first two, I will still have recordings to listen to. I was too young for most of the really talented singers from that era, but I still love to listen to them.

Music seems to follow a pattern, that of people with extraordinary talent, then those who barely can carry a tune, pushed by the executives just for a dollar. But it always comes back to those who can really sing, and perhaps play an instrument. Diana Krall is one of the good ones that comes to mind. Sara Barelleis is also decent. And I can't leave out Sade. Rumor has it that the band is working on a new album. Sade has a great voice, and is not bothered if she doesn't hit the right pitch at first, she eventually slides into it. haha. But I do love their music, it takes me back to a time of my youth and playing saxophone along with the tracks, to learn to free solo.

CGHill said...

You've done something when you've outdone Dionne Warwick, and that's exactly what she did.

That said, while the LP cut is great, the 45 version, stashed away on the B-side of "The House that Jack Built," is greater still, the same amount of emotion compressed into a brief 2:41.