strong · women

hailing the queen


A lot has been written about Aretha Franklin this week. Just had to document again my love for the strength in this woman. As a minister’s daughter, I can only guess the many things she saw and heard in the church. We were fortunate to see her take that past and bend/blend it in wonderful ways via her amazing voice.

I just discovered the below Soul Train clip. (this show is always so nice without the lip synching). It features Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Music (yes, not just soul) and the remarkable Smokey Robinson. What a duo. They both figure into the rich cultural history of people of African descent as studied by the incredible historian Sterling Stuckey who also passed away this week.

When I lived in Detroit late last century, I crossed paths briefly with them both. As I said to my Facebook friends, I’ll always remember needing to step away as a fairly new Detroit Free Press reporter from the ruckus surrounding the inaugural celebration for the mayor that succeeded Coleman Young, Detroit’s first black mayor. I exited a stage door at the Fox Theatre. Someone else had the same idea. Aretha and I barely smiled at each other. We just took in the cold air separately, trying not to shake our heads. Rest in peace, Queen. You were wearin’ the heck out that fancy coat though. And you sang and got in your limo and high-tailed it out of there.

I saw Smokey in the mall shopping my first Christmas in Motown. My then-husband said, “What’s up, Smoke?” He replied, “What’s happening!?” He and Aretha would have made a great album. Always just regular people.


Beyond that, I discovered this week how much this has been a difficult summer in terms of the many things swirling around me on the personal front. I did not know of the passing of Lorraine Gordon, another queen of sorts. Lorraine-Gordon-village-vangaurd-billboard-1548

Indeed, she was a matriarch on the jazz scene as owner of the Village Vanguard. The widow of Max Gordon, the club’s founder, she was also the first wife of Alfred Lion, the co-founder of Blue Note Records. This indie jazz label, the first in our country, is the one with which Grant Green, my former father in law, the guitarist, is most associated. I visited this place a lot while living in New York.

Gordon inspires, too. She and Aretha were two tough cookies with generous hearts.

Meanwhile on the school front (although I think my life and research often informs the things I teach and research), it was fun meeting transfer students at a Bama Bound session on campus yesterday. I have a special place in my heart for such students as I returned to school at age 37 after a career in journalism and know what it’s like to enter a new environment. The anxieties that accompany being twice the age of your classmates and attending state colleges (after having attended the University of Miami when it was a small private institution in the eighties) were real. I look forward to seeing the ones I met yesterday and students enrolled in my classes next week. Also looking forward to football season. Roll Tide! #TheU

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