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Aretha Franklin – Queen of Soul fights pancreatic cancer

Aretha Franklin – Queen of Soul fights pancreatic cancer

One of the greatest legendary icons of Soul/R& B music, and pop music in general, 68 year-old Aretha Franklin is in the fight of her life with pancreatic cancer. She’s superior and more seasoned than several other artists. And she epitomizes soul in nesting her gospel-charged tenacity and prowess in music. Her late 60s hits with Atlantic Records includes, Respect, I Never Loved a Man, Chains of Fools, Baby I Love You, I Say a Little Prayer, Think, and The House that Jack Built, and several others earned her the accolade ‘Lady Soul.’ Even today, she’s still uncontested.  (Photo:  Aretha Franklin, “Queen of Soul”)

Aretha had a serious fall at her home in Blooming Field Hills in Detroit, fracturing two of her ribs that would lead to her hospitalization, early in November for several days at Sinai Grace Hospital. During her stay at the hospital, she went through vigorous tests and was eventually diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, an aggressive form of cancer that has a 6 % survival rate of up to 5 years. But Apple CEO Steve Jobs and US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg are the two survivors of the disease. “God is still in control,” Franklin said after last week’s surgery. The grounded singer’s condition has been the subject of speculation since she announced she was clearing her calendar “at the insistence” of her doctors.

Before Franklin’s surgery last week, December 2, a prayer vigil was organized in downtown Detroit, an exercise of intercessory prayers for Aretha’s good health and survival. The surgery was “highly successful,” the singer’s spokesperson said, but her family is reportedly very concerned. “We are not prying into the circumstances, the details of the surgery,” Councilwoman Joann Watson said. “We just wanted her to know that we stand with her in prayer and love and support.” In a message to her fans, Franklin said, “All prayers are good,” in nursing and uplifting the mind and soul. Invariably, prayers are like incense going up to the Almighty, the architect and finisher of our faith.

Her roots with gospel music ran innately very deep. Her sisters Carolyn and Erma also have inspiring recording careers. Growing up in the 50s, Franklin sang at Detroit Church choir, where her father Reverend C. L. Franklin had pastured. She had her first gospel recording break at age 14; Motown was interested in signing her up when it was a mere work in progress. She ended up with Columbia, and was signed by renowned talent John Hammond. Aretha would record for this label continuously in the 60s, notching occasional R&B hits  – Rock-a- bye you, with a Dixie melody: While she blazed with the flames of a star. Her relationship with Columbia sparked serious controversy among critics, who felt that Aretha’s true aspirations were being blunted by pop-oriented material and rendition. There are reasonable fine tunes found on Columbia sides, including occasional song; Lee Cross, Soulville, where she belts out soul with real gusto. Her work with Columbia was considerably tamer than what would follow, suffering from lack of direction, and emphasis on trying to groom her into an all-round entertainer, rather than R& B/Soul singer.

On the doctor’s orders Franklin has cancelled all personal appearances for the next 6 months, according to her publicist Tracy Jordan, who announced that the recuperating legend was earlier hospitalized for several days. Included in the cancelled events is her Christmas lined schedule for December 9 concert at Fox Theater. She also cancelled a show in Missouri and Virginia in November. A statement from her publicist said, ‘Franklin sends her sincerest apologies to loyal followers and colleagues for the cancelled shows.’ Jordan emphasized that the singer is “resting comfortably at home.” Another source says she’s not terminally ill. She’s not dying. Other big dates on her calendar included a pair of February shows at New York Radio City Music Hall. All those concerts were booked in October, before Franklin had fallen at home and fractured 2 of her ribs, forcing the cancellation of 2 shows in Brooklyn and New York as well.

It was in January 2009, as the guest artist at President Barack Obama’s impressive and historic inauguration ceremony, held at the Capital Building, when sister Aretha braved it out, challenging the brutal cold weather and sang inspiringly and beautifully at the event. She apologized because the bone biting cold weather did not favor her to do justice in the rendition of her song at the jammed packed ceremonial event. Since very cold weather is not conducive to excellent singing. But when she began to sing, her voice was nothing short of the unequaled, unique and idolized Aretha, who never lets her audience down. And the audience cheered her with thunderous applause, as if she was performing another memorable concert over again. If music can save our souls then our sister who’s got soul, would be saved from her serious ailment and the prognosis of impending dark clouds. But can we ever escape the inevitable end, when the clarion call warrants? She’s the Queen of Soul, who’s innately soulful and could neither be duplicated nor be out performed.

Roland Bankole Marke © 20010

Roland Bankole Marke is a writer, songwriter, and fan of Aretha Franklin. Visit his website: www.rolandmarke.com

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