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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Richmond's Christy Coleman Remembers Aretha Franklin

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 4:20 PM

Christy Coleman, Chief Executive Officer of the American Civil War Museum, used to live in Detroit, where she worked as CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History.

Coleman, recently named by Time magazine as one of the top 31 people changing the South, remembers a special guest who often came to the museum: the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who died today at 76 in Detroit.

"She loved Detroit, that was her hometown. She was always everywhere like a regular person," says Coleman. "When I worked at the museum she was a frequent visitor."

Coleman says that she expects Franklin's funeral will be one of the largest in the city's history, and that her former museum will likely do something in her honor.

franklin_9_cropped.jpg

"At that time the Charles Wright Museum was the largest African-American museum in the country. We had a lot of celebrities come through," she recalls. "Aretha was very down-to-earth. At the same time she was a no-nonsense kind of person. 'Just show me what's going on, don't give me all that froo-froo, but show me my respect.' You had to be real with her, but at the same time you had to be respectful that you were in the presence of the Queen [laughs]."

Coleman says that people were more than willing to bow down.

"Aretha was really a lovely woman," she says. "She could be very funny. And she was definitely one of our favorites we got to meet."

A Video Celebration of Aretha Franklin

The Queen of Soul has died at 76.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 1:00 PM

It's been coming all week.

We knew the undisputed Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, was in hospice, so there's been some time to prepare. A steady stream of fans have posted memories, praise and well wishes (I recommend the New Yorker article "Aretha Franklin's American Soul" by David Remnick for more background on her life).

She died today from pancreatic cancer at the age of 76, surrounded by loved ones.

Fans of her transcendent, once-a-century talent are mourning -- and if you're like me and bought tickets to see her in Virginia in the past, only to have the concert cancelled, it stings a little extra. Of all the legendary performers on my bucket list to witness live, she ruled alone at the top.

But we do have those essential recordings (if you're new, start with "Amazing Grace" and "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You)") plus a lot of video out there. And of course, there are the shining talents that she has inspired and will continue to inspire. But there will never be another quite like her.

In a way, it's hard to be too sad: This is a glorious day. Ms. Franklin was a person of faith and she's now set free. One can easily imagine that glorious voice, that soul-stirring spirit, alighting anew in the heavens, or across whatever timeless plain awaits.

As my friend Amanda Petrusich summed up for the New Yorker today, "To listen to Aretha Franklin now is to hear everything—everything that came before her, each strain of American blues and jazz and gospel and soul, all the musical traditions people leaned on to stay alive, and everything that exists now, all the singers she gave license to, everyone she taught. Her death is in all of us, as her songs are in all of us. She is as immortal as can be."

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