Fashion Reverie’s Tribute to Aretha Franklin

What you want

Baby, I got it

What you need

Do you know I got it

All I’m askin

Is for a little respect when you get home

                                           —Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin wanted R-E-S-P-E-C-T, she earned and boy did she get it back!! On August 16, the Queen of Soul transitioned, ending over fifty earthly years of getting respect and displaying the incredible wealth of her vocal brilliance. No other artist of the 20th and 21st centuries has epitomized the range of emotions, lyrical style and spoke to the black experience more exquisitely than Aretha Franklin.

From “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” to “Rose in Spanish Harlem” to “Natural Woman” to “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” to ‘Think” to “Young, Gifted and Black” To “Who’s Zoomin Who” to “Day Dreaming,” Aretha Franklin’s countless hit records spoke to female empowerment, black pride, soulful love, and bluesy melancholy. As one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide and having won 18 Grammy Awards, Franklin’s influence goes way beyond her musical gifts and accolades. Aretha Franklin’s music spoke to the political and cultural shifts in the US, as well as evolving styles of popular music.

Interestingly, because of the wealth of her talent Aretha Franklin was able—even to the last decade of her life—to adjust not only to ever-evolving musical styles, but also embrace, and in most cases, dominate shifting pop genres. In the 1960s, Franklin topped the charts with her masterful musical expression of liberation and black pride. While in the 70s, her melodic interpretations of dreamy love and sensual abandonment established her as an artist of the highest order. Still, in the 1980s Franklin’s rhythmic embrace of house and dance music kept her relevant and at the top of the charts. And in the late 90s and up until her death, Franklin held rock steady with continued chart success that spoke to her musical aplomb and artistry.

Franklin’s fashion style also evolved with the times. From her in-your-face militant Afro and Afrocentric clothing of the late 60s to Franklin’s hip, cool, 70s sexiness to her penchant for couture clothes in the 80s—Arnold Scaasi was one of her favorites to becoming the confident style maven in the 90s and onward, Franklin demonstrated that an artist’s style evolution should be natural and relevant. Though some critics scoffed that some of her style choices did not pair well with her increasing weight, it cannot be denied that Franklin, in her own way, understood that a diva should grab attention.

Fashion Reverie salutes the Queen of Soul and is confident that her voice will never go silent. Long may the Queen’s voice ring loud and strong!!

—William S. Gooch

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